A pet duck helped police in North Carolina close a missing person’s investigation that first started over two years ago.
According to PEOPLE, on April 21, Angela Wamsley, 46, and Mark Barnes, 50, were charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Wamsley’s grandmother, Nellie Sullivan.
Police have yet to identify Sullivan’s cause of death; however, they suspect that she has been dead for “multiple” years. Her body was only found recently with the unlikely help of a pet duck.
Pet Duck Helps Police Solve Murder Investigation
Wamsley and Barnes, who are married, have actually been in police custody since December 2020, when the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into Sullivan’s disappearance.
According to a statement from the county sheriff’s office, her death was deemed “suspicious” from the start of their investigation. Both Barnes and Wamsley were charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty, unlawfully reconnecting a utility, animal abandonment, and synthetic cannabinoid possession. Barnes faced an additional charge for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Ever since their arrest, investigators had been trying to find Sullivan, who was in her 90s.
Numerous search warrants have been executed at various locations as part of the investigation into her disappearance, to no success. Police believe that the couple might have continued to collect her benefit checks long after she was deceased. The couple has also been accused of filling her medical prescriptions themselves.
The Buncombe County sheriff’s office released a statement that read “On December 20, 2021, Mr. Barnes was charged with concealing a death and Ms. Wamsley received the same charge on January 7, 2021. Wamsley was also charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a Detention Officer at the Buncombe County Detention Facility in January of 2021.”
Two months later, in March 2021, the couple was charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or forgery, trafficking in heroin or opium by possession, trafficking in heroin or opium by transport, and felony conspiracy.
After being presented with his charges, Barnes provided local officials with a location with the suggestion that Sullivan’s remains might be buried there. Police investigated the area, but unfortunately, no human remains were recovered. Officials were unable to formally accuse the couple of Sullivan’s murder until her body was discovered.
So Where Does The Duck Come In?
On April 14, a pet duck escaped from its owners and scurried underneath a trailer located in Candler, N.C. While they were trying to get the duck out, the bird’s owners found a container that contained Sullivan’s remains. Inadvertently, the duck had helped investigators finally uncover Sullivan’s body.
“If I could give that duck a medal, I would,” Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Mark Walker told WLOS News 13.
Sullivan had suffered from various health issues, including dementia. An anthropologist is now working to determine her cause of death and discover how long ago she was killed.
It is unclear at this time if Barnes or Wamsley have entered any pleas in exchange for a lighter sentence. Both are being held without bail.