A pet duck in North Carolina had a hand — or wing — in moving a missing person’s investigation from over two years ago along, according to the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office.
Nellie Sullivan (90), who was suffering from dementia and other health issues, vanished in December 2020. Officials have charged Angela Wamsley, 46 — the granddaughter of the deceased — and her husband, Mark Barnes, 50, with first-degree murder in connection to her death, according to authorities.
The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office said they opened an investigation in December of 2020, and felt that Sullivan’s disappearance was suspicious from the beginning, resulting in the couple being brought into custody, according to Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mark Walker, Major Case Unit.
“It became pretty apparent almost immediately that Miss Sullivan had disappeared under what can be said suspicious circumstances,”Walker stated.
Barnes was charged with firearm possession by a felon. Additionally, the couple were initially accused of misdemeanor animal cruelty and unlawfully reconnecting utility. According to a Facebook post from the department.
Authorities continued their search for the elderly woman after they arrested her, issuing multiple warrants. Detectives found out that Barnes and Wamsley allegedly continued to collect her grandmother’s pension checks and to have her prescriptions filled.
“On December 20, 2021, Mr. Barnes was charged with concealing a death and Ms. Wamsley received the same charge on January 7, 2021,” according to the statement from the sheriff’s office.
“Wamsley was also charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a Detention Officer at the Buncombe County Detention Facility in January of 2021.”
According to authorities, the couple were charged with trafficking heroin or opium via transport and fraud in March 2021.
According to the sheriff’s office, Barnes allegedly gave the authorities a location to search for the grandmother’s remains that led to no discovery. Authorities were prevented from convicting the couple for murder because they did not have enough evidence.
New evidence was discovered when a pet duck from Candler, North Carolina ran away from its owners on April 14th and crawled under a trailer. When the owners tried to retrieve the duck, they came across the container that Sullivan’s body had been placed in, under the trailer, according to People.
“If I could give that duck a medal, I would,” Walker told WLOS 13 News.
Investigators believe Sullivan was murdered at one location and then later brought to the trailer, according to the local outlet.
Authorities say they are still trying to find out how and when Sullivan was killed. An anthropologist is also working to determine the time period in which Sullivan was killed.
Barnes and Wamsley — whose lawyers were not available for comment — are being held without bond and it is unknown if they have entered pleas to any of the charges against them.