For more than a month, the police hunted for some sign Hinsdale mom Linda Fellenbaum was still alive after she ran barefoot into the night during an argument with her boyfriend.
Detectives are still piecing together why Fellenbaum dropped out of circulation for 38 days in October and November, and what exactly she was up to all that time. But for about a week and a half between Fellenbaum disappearing from her boyfriend's Joliet home and turning up in a Georgia jail, she hung out under a fake name in a small town south of Atlanta where she worked as a live-in housekeeper for a retired truck driver.
The trucker, a 48-year-old Sharpsburg, Ga., resident who says he owns rental properties and dabbles in the movie business, told how he met Fellenbaum after placing an ad for a housekeeper on Craigslist.
The man, who asked for his name to be withheld, wasn't the first guy Fellenbaum met on Craigslist, as she set up a sex date with a stranger through the site just hours before she vanished from her boyfriend's home on Oct. 21.
While Fellenbaum may have been cruising the Internet looking for anonymous sex, the Georgia man says his relationship with Fellenbaum wasn't like that. He called it "professional" and "platonic."
"I was looking for a housekeeper. If we had sex and it worked out that way, cool," he explained, adding, "I thought she was darned nice. I never had sex with her. I thought about it."
Fellenbaum ended up getting arrested on a burglary charge by detectives from the University of Georgia Police Department. She allegedly broke into offices in a hotel and convention center on the university campus and stole electronic equipment. She remains in custody at the Clarke County, Ga., jail.
The Sharpsburg man said UGA detectives questioned him after they learned his credit card was used to purchase a bus ticket for Fellenbaum.
UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson confirmed that his detectives spoke with the Sharpsburg man. Williamson said he told them the same story about meeting Fellenbaum through Craigslist and taking her into his home to work as his housekeeper.
The man said Fellenbaum, who was going by the name Catherine Nowak, told him a story of living in Madison Wis., and wanting to visit relatives in Georgia. He said she took a bus south to Greenville, Ga., where he picked her up and brought her home.
The Joliet man Fellenbaum fled in October, Donald Wolak, 40, had accused her of stealing one of his handguns and $10,000 before taking off on him. He later found the handgun in his house, police said, but never located the money.
The Georgia man also believes Fellenbaum took one of his guns.
"I had a little pistol in my nightstand that was gone," he said, telling how he doesn't "have anything else" in his home worth stealing.
A mother of three, Fellenbaum told her Georgia host she was childless. When he found out otherwise, and learned that she put her youngest son up for adoption without letting her family know about it, the man admitted he was a little put off.
"I think everybody makes mistakes (but) I'm kind of leery of a woman who doesn't have her kids," he said.
Leery or not, the Sharpsburg man hasn't entirely given up on Fellenbaum.
"She was beautiful," he said, recalling how she cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the two of them. The only photograph he has of Fellenbaum is from that night, taken of her as she loads his dishwasher.
"She just doesn't seem like all of a sudden she's a criminal," he said, telling how he would welcome her back if he can spring her from jail. She is being held on a $4,000 bond.
"I can talk to a bondsman," he said as he revealed how he had plans to take care of her if she had returned to his home instead of landing in jail.
"Anything she wanted," he said. "I would have got her a job, I would have helped her out."