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UNIDENTIFIED

Dozens of bodies found across the state remain mysteries

Posted on April 12, 2021

Local newsColumns
Michelle Bullard, reporter Lindell J. Kay's niece, was kidnapped and killed in 2006. "My family knows the pain of having a loved one turn into a missing person case," Kay writes.

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Michelle Bullard, reporter Lindell J. Kay's niece, was kidnapped and killed in 2006. "My family knows the pain of having a loved one turn into a missing person case," Kay writes.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. Reporter Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. Reporter Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

Lindell J. Kay

Lindell J. Kay

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. Reporter Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. Reporter Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

Lindell J. Kay

Lindell J. Kay

My niece Michelle Bullard felt safe watching television in her home with friends on a January night in 2006. Then a masked man with a handgun broke down the front door.

The intruder tied up Michelle’s friends and took her away. She was 23.

Nineteen hours later, with law enforcement closing in, the man who kidnapped Michelle shot himself in the heart. His death left my family with no answers as to Michelle’s fate. Authorities conducted several searches, but turned up only her purse in the woods near the man’s family homestead.

Ten excruciatingly long months passed between Michelle’s kidnapping and the discovery and identification of her skeleton in the woods, found by a hunter five miles from where the purse had been located.

Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter announced in late 2007 that physical evidence and witness statements showed David Earl Wilson, a 49-year-old convicted murderer recently released from prison after 20 years, killed Michelle the night of her kidnapping and dumped her body in an old cemetery in the woods. She died of blunt force trauma to the head.

My family knows the pain of having a loved one turn into a missing person case. So I’ll forgive you for thinking this story is about missing people. It’s not.

The remains of my niece were mercifully identified in short order after being recovered. But there are 120 or so bodies that remain unidentified in our state, according to NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

I firmly believe that some of those unidentified bodies belong to missing people we know about, but haven’t yet connected the dots. The other bodies belong to victims no one reported missing for a myriad of reasons, from neglect to more sinister situations.

Law enforcement does an admirable job finding missing people and solving murders. Several clearinghouse websites collect information on unidentified body cases, but the information isn’t presented in a proactive manner. In order to resolve older cases from the time before the internet, more publicity is required.

Some of these cases haven’t received any public attention since being discovered decades ago. A few cases have never been reported by the news media.

The more people who learn of these stories, the more likely a positive resolution can be reached. With the introduction you’re reading right now, this newspaper is launching an extensive multimedia project focused on unidentified bodies in North Carolina.

Our plan is to present information — gleaned from multiple sources — about a different unidentified body case each week. With around 120 cases across the state, that will take us about two years. By putting forward these cases in an internet search engine-friendly format, the hope is that families of missing people will have a way of finding information about unidentified bodies that may be a match for their mother, daughter or niece.

Please join me on this journey as I research and report each week in this newspaper, on “The Kay Files,” my show about unsolved crime on WHIG-TV, and at facebook.com/LJKay1.

We start this week with a look at the 2007 death of a baby found in a Nash County dumpster, revealing to the public for the first time how the infant died.

Lindell J. Kay is The Enterprise’s staff writer. Reach him at 252-265-8117 and lkay@springhopeenterprise.com.

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