FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The family of a Fort Bragg soldier who disappeared more than a decade ago said police told them his remains have been found in the back yard of a house in Fayetteville.
Sgt. Terry Lee Webb, 43, vanished in July 1991. Though he was separated from his second wife, Melvia, the mother of two of his seven children, he seemed happy when he phoned his two oldest daughters on July 12.
He said he was looking forward to visiting them in Pittsburgh and to a family reunion in Virginia, and he talked about his plans to retire in nine months after nearly 20 years in the Army.
"He was in very good spirits; he was ready to retire," his daughter Terryrey Webb-Brandon said.
It was their last conversation.
A police report says the manager of his apartment complex saw Webb the next day. His abandoned car was found about a week later. But no one has seen Webb since.
Now police, led by a federal prison inmate who claimed to know what happened to Webb, have found remains behind a Fayetteville house. Court documents say they still don't know whose bones they have uncovered, but Melvia Webb said she's been told they are her husband's.
"It's just like death all over again for us," she said last week. "It doesn't ease the pain. It still hurts."
Terryrey Webb-Brandon wants to know more about the case.
"I want closure, but I would like to find out what happened," she said. "That is what's beating me up inside."
Webb's car was found behind a grocery store on July 19, 1991. Officers went to his apartment and found it had been ransacked, but nothing was taken, according to a police affidavit.
He was declared absent without leave by the Army. Several years ago, Melvia Webb had him declared legally dead.
"To me, no one really worked on the case properly," Terryrey Webb-Brandon said. "We didn't get too many answers" from the Army or lawmen.
In the fall of 2002, police talked to a federal prisoner who claimed to have information about a killing in July 1991, according to an affidavit for a search warrant. Richard Brewington was convicted on firearms charges in April 2002 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Brewington told police a friend banged on his door early one morning in July 1991 and said he had killed a man whom they called "T." He sent the friend away, but the man came back the next night and asked for help moving T's body. Brewington sent him away again.
Two days later, the man came back and described how he killed T with a shotgun, used a car and rope to drag the heavy body to his parents' back yard, then buried it there with mothballs, according to the affidavit. Brewington told police his friend was driving T's car on at least one visit.
Police combed through old crime reports until they found two that matched the story: the break-in at Webb's apartment and the discovery of his car. They determined that T and Webb were the same person, the affidavit said.
Police questioned Brewington's friend, who said he, Brewington and others spent time at Webb's apartment. But he denied having anything to do with Webb's death, and police Capt. Brad Chandler said he is not a suspect.
In fact, Chandler said, police still must determine that a murder was committed.
Investigators found fragments of bone, cloth and shotgun shells under a shed behind a house in Fayetteville on March 30. They also found two pistols, a shotgun and 48 rounds of ammunition in the house, according to the search warrant affidavit.
They are investigating whether the bones are Webb's, the affidavit said, and Chandler said police may have results next week of work by the state medical examiner's office, which is trying to match the remains with Webb's dental records.
Melvia Webb said Wednesday that, if the remains are her husband's, it will be a relief for her and Webb's children -- he had seven, two with Melvia Webb.
She hopes to be able to bury him at last.
"I'm going to give him a proper burial, one with military honors," she said. "He deserves that."