Local News

Human Remains Could Be Missing Lee County Woman

Posted October 19, 2006 8:50 p.m. EDT

— Cumberland County authorities and the State Bureau of Investigation are investigating the discovery of a set of human remains found Wednesday, which could be those of a 23-year-old Lee County woman who has been missing since January.

Karen Riojas, the mother of Michelle Bullard, told WRAL that the remains were found in an old cemetery near the Cedar Creek community in Fayetteville.

Bullard, authorities say, was kidnapped on Jan. 2 while visiting friends. They say a masked gunman entered the home where Bullard was staying, robbed them and took Bullard at gunpoint.

Riojas told WRAL that she received a call from Lee County authorities on Wednesday telling her that the remains could be those of her daughter. The remains were found close to where Bullard's wallet and purse had been found in an earlier search.

Cumberland County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Tanna said the remains were found near the intersection of Tabor Church and Johnson roads at about 1 p.m. Wednesday. Investigators have not been able to positively identify the remains and have not been able to determine whether they are those of a male or female.

Forensic experts and medical examiners were at the scene Thursday afternoon investigating, and DNA tests will determine whether the remains are those of Bullard's.

For months, investigators and volunteers from more than a dozen agencies have searched for Bullard in several counties. Investigators have also followed dozens of leads, none of which have turned up much information about her disappearance.

"I won't give up any hope until I'm told differently," Riojas told WRAL during a prayer vigil for her daughter in February. "We have not lost hope. We are still very, very hopeful that Michelle will have a safe return back to us."

Authorities have not named any suspects in the case. Earlier this year, however, they identified a Lee County man as a person of interest who they said loosely fit the description of the home-invasion assailant.

That man, David Wilson, committed suicide hours after Bullard was reported missing.

Detectives said the two might have both been in a local convenience store the night before Bullard's disappearance and Wilson's death. Investigators took surveillance video from the store to examine whether it shows Wilson and Bullard inside the store.

Wilson's relatives, however, have said that the two incidents, which occurred within six miles of each other, were merely a coincidence.

Bullard is 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighs about 125 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes. A $10,000 reward is being offered to anyone who has information leading to her recovery.

Anyone with information that may help solve the case is urged to contact the Lee County Sheriff's Office at 919-775-5531 or local law enforcement.