Family believes Raleigh man abducted, killed Virginia woman
Posted September 14, 2011
Rocky Mount, Va. — The daughter of a missing Rocky Mount, Va., woman is searching for answers after her 64-year-old mother disappeared nearly two weeks ago and her mother's boyfriend committed suicide in a Texas motel room two days later.
Tracy Ayers believes that Stanley David Crotts, 58, of Raleigh, abducted her mother, Shirley Ann Hodges, and killed her somewhere along the 1,100 miles between Franklin County, Va., and Crockett, Texas. Crotts has family and friends in the Raleigh area, and Ayers hopes that someone will come forward with information that leads to her mother.
"We are pretty certain that she has been murdered," Ayers said. "We are anxious for anyone that may have seen anything."
Investigators in Virginia and Texas are working together to find Hodges, but say leads have been few and far between.
"We don't have anything that gives us any indication of where she may be," Lt. Steve McGuire, of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, said Wednesday. "It's very frustrating, and I know it's very frustrating for the family. The only person who knows is not able to tell us."
Ayers says her mother met Crotts in 2004 and that they had an on-again, off-again relationship during which they fought frequently about his heavy drinking. She said she recently learned that Hodges had told friends that Crotts was controlling and sometimes violent when he was drinking and that he had threatened to kill her in the past.
On Aug. 31, Ayers said she spent the morning with her mother before dropping her off at home around 2 p.m. She said Crotts was in the backyard smoking and that they waved to each other. Around 4 p.m., she said, her mother called to say that Crotts had been drinking and "got in her face," and that she told him to leave.
"I said, 'Do you need me to come down there?' and she said, 'No, I've just told him he's going to have to leave. He's going to have to go back to the hotel or go back to his family, whatever. I can't deal with this,'" Ayers said.
That was the last time she spoke to her mother.
"We do have reason to believe that some harm came to her from evidence collected at the scene (her home)," McGuire said. "I'm not saying she was killed there."
Neighbors reported seeing her car parked at the house around 11 p.m. that night, but said it was gone at 4 a.m. on Sept. 1.
"We are fairly sure she left in her vehicle, most likely not of her own will," McGuire said.
Ayers tried to call her mother repeatedly on Sept. 1, and she eventually called police after Hodges didn't show up for a planned meeting with Ayers' brother.
Investigators began tracking Crotts' cell phone, which was pinging off towers in Alabama, Louisiana and eventually Crockett, Texas. They contacted authorities there, who tracked Crotts to an Economy Inn, where Hodges' silver 2004 Chevy Malibu was parked.
When officers knocked on the door, they heard a gunshot, said Corporal Vince Baker of the Crockett Police Department. Crotts had shot himself in the face and died two hours later at a Tyler, Texas, hospital. He never regained consciousness and authorities were never able to speak with him, Baker said.
There was no sign of Hodges in the motel room, Baker said, and authorities don't believe she ever made it to Texas.
"We believe she was transported in the vehicle," McGuire said. "(But) there's nothing in between (Virginia and Texas), which is frustrating."
He said searching for Hodges is like trying to find a needle in a "100-mile-high haystack."