After digging for several hours Thursday, crime scene investigators found what they believe to be the the decomposed remains of Amanda Belon Simpson-Deane floating in an old, abandoned well off Frazier's Road, west of Rocky Mount near Highway 64.
"We do believe we have recovered the body of Amanda," said Det. Randall Swallow of the Cary Police Department. "The reason we believe that is because of her clothing description that we received at the time she was missing. That clothing description of the body we recovered does match."
, then 16 years old, was reported missing after her first period class ended at Cary High School on Sept. 19, 2000. She had only attended the school for three weeks. Her 18th birthday was on Wednesday.
A year and a half ago, Nash County deputies had come to the same site when a car stolen from Durham was found burned there. Investigators did not make a connection to Amanda's disappearance until later.
"I know they've been down there a couple of times," said Nash County Sheriff Jimmy Grimes about the Cary investigators. "We've worked the area with them, and evidently they've picked up some good information this time."
Last May, the Cary Police Department
released a statement
that the focus of its investigation of Simpson-Deane was on her last confirmed sighting with a friend, Jevon Anthony Ward, in Cary.
Ward was later taken into custody in Nash County, on unrelated charges, and was considered a material witness in the missing person case.
Ward, 23, of Raleigh
was then arrested
by Raleigh police Jan. 15 after allegedly attacking a Cary police officer, two alleged carjackings, and a car chase that extended from Cary to Raleigh. He is currently being held in the federal prison at Butner.
Police are not calling Ward a suspect in this case.
Prior to that lead, in November 2000, Cary police officers found a bookbag in a pond off of Chatham Street near the intersection of N.E. Maynard Road. Police said Simpson-Deane's name was on the bag. After a search of the area, crews drained the pond, but no new evidence resulted.
Authorities said a tip led them to an old well in rural Nash County Thursday morning. A backhoe was used to dig up sections of the old, abandoned well.
"Our investigation team has recently developed information which yesterday led us to the location of a deceased person. The information we've gathered and the evidence at the scene strongly and sadly suggest that this is Amanda," said Lt. Chris Hoina, head of Cary's criminal investigations unit. Hoina added that officials have contacted the girl's relatives.
The well, which is approximately 36 inches in diameter and between 20 and 30 feet deep, is on private property. The owners of that property are not considered suspects.
The investigative team includes the Nash County Sheriff's Office, the State Bureau of Investigations, Wake County's City/County Bureau of Identification (CCBI) and the Cary Police Department.
Hoina said that there was an issue of jurisdiction because of the prior incident at the same location.
"This was a site where the Nash County Sheriff's Department uncovered a stolen and a burned car over a year ago. So there are a lot of questions here today with regard to whose jurisdiction is this case," he said. "What we have regarding Amanda is we have a missing person. At this point, that's all we have is a missing person case."
The remains that have been recovered were taken to the state medical examiner in Chapel Hill for identification and to determine the cause of death.
"While it seems likely that foul play was involved, we will await a report from the medical examiner to give us the details necessary to move forward with that part of our investigation," Hoina said.
Investigators said they are in the process of interviewing a number of people which could lead to a suspect or suspects.
"What we have now is a turning point," Hoina said.
Both of Amanda's parents said that they are waiting for more answers.Amanda's mother, Sabrina Simpson, lives in Maryland. She talked with WRAL by telephone Thursday afternoon and said she was waiting for more information from the police. Amanda's father, Curtis Deane, lives in Raleigh.
Cary Police Press Releases: