Pet duck steps up, finds body of missing woman; granddaughter charged

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Posted at 7:29 PM, May 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-01 20:40:32-04

(CNN NEWSOURCE) — Police in North Carolina have finally charged a couple with murder in the case of a woman in her 90s who went missing two years ago.

The investigation hadn't yielded any evidence - until a pet duck led them straight to what they needed.

Buncombe County investigators had most of the pieces to the puzzle except for the victim's body.

They always suspected foul play.

They just didn't expect help from a waterfowl.

Angela Wamsley and Mark Barnes are now charged with murdering Wamsley's grandmother, Nellie Sullivan.

Sullivan in her 90s was determined to be missing in 2020 says Major Crimes Sgt. Mark Walker.

"It became pretty apparent almost immediately that miss Sullivan had disappeared under what can be said or suspicious circumstances," said Sgt. Walker.

Already in jail, Wamsley and Barnes were previously charged with concealing a death in connection to the case.

But investigators didn't find Sullivan's body until one week ago.

Years of search warrants and state and federal assistance led nowhere.

"Mark actually sent us on a wild goose chase which resulted in us digging for several days in a site that he knew she was not located at," said Walker.

That goose chase ending April 14 thanks to a pet duck.

"Apparently the duck ran underneath the trailer at 11 beady-eyed lanes and as they were chasing after their pet duck, they ran across the container that Nellie Sullivan was located in," said Walker.

"If I could give that duck a metal, I would."

Investigators believe Sullivan was murdered at a different location, then brought to the trailer.

"Her remains have been sent to an anthropologist for further examination just so we can try to nail down more about how exactly how long she's been deceased," said Walker.

Walker said Wamsley and Barnes concealed the body and then continued to collect Sullivan's social security and retirement benefits for years.

He said they also filled her prescriptions.

"I would like to say that I'm never surprised anymore about this case. It was surprising," said Walker.

The veteran investigator, shocked by the disregard for human life.

An aging grandmother suffering from health issues, including dementia.

"Instead of receiving the care that she needed from those that are supposed to love her the most she received the exact opposite in the worst possible way," said Walker.

Sullivan's official cause of death hasn't yet been released by the medical examiner as the investigation is ongoing.