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NC Wanted: 75 years later, questions remain in case of missing mother, daughter

Posted July 30

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— One of the oldest cases in North Carolina remains unsolved – a mother and daughter, missing for 75 years.

Over the years, investigators have more questions than answers.

Lelia Bryan and her 4-year-old daughter, Mary Rachel Bryan, disappeared on May 10, 1941. Officials say foul play was suggested, and investigators haven’t given up on the case.

Seven years ago, investigators thought the answers were under the floor of a home in Carolina Beach where Lelia Bryan and her husband lived.

“For 67 years there is nothing ever been heard about the mother, daughter or the car,” said Lewis Smith, Lelia Bryan’s nephew.

Lelia Bryan’s husband, E.C. Bryan, was once considered the prime suspect, but he died in 1976 having never been charged.

Smith said E.C. Bryan was pouring a concrete floor around the time his wife and daughter disappeared.

Investigators caught a break in 2009 when the owner of the home agreed to let the search under the floor, using deep penetrating radar.

“This is either rule-in or rule-out the house, to take the cloud off the house,” Smith said.

Radar did reveal something under the house but no conclusive evidence.

“Some of the signals have the potential to be excavated pits or cavities that might contain buried remains,” said Billy Oliver.

Forensic scientists and SBI agents cut chunks of concrete from the floor, looking for signs of bones or teeth. Instead, they found animals bones and a piece of glass.

More years continue to pass without answers while headstones continue to adorn empty graves.

“At least we can get her buried in the family cemetery,” Smith said.

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Lelia Bryan and her daughter is asked to call the NC Wanted toll-free hotline at 1-866-439-2683.

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