Local News

Dead Man Linked to Michelle Bullard's Slaying

Posted December 6, 2007 11:45 a.m. EST
Updated December 6, 2007 10:49 p.m. EST

— A man who committed suicide almost two years ago kidnapped and killed a Lee County woman hours before his death, authorities said Thursday.

Julie "Michelle" Bullard, 23, was abducted from a mobile home in the Broadway community of Lee County on Jan. 2, 2006, by an armed intruder. Her remains were found 10 months later in Cumberland County.

Investigators never named a suspect in the case, but early on had identified David Earl Wilson, 49, as a person of interest because he roughly fit the description of the intruder. He had served more than 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to a murder in 1975.

Within 19 hours of Bullard's disappearance, Wilson committed suicide on a Harnett County road when deputies tried to pull him over.

Wilson's family has maintained that his suicide had nothing to do with Bullard and that he was suffering health and marital problems.

But Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said Thursday that physical evidence in the case and witness statements prove Wilson killed Bullard. He declined to elaborate, saying the investigation is ongoing.

"Although the evidence is clear that Wilson acted alone in the robbery, kidnapping and murder of Julie 'Michelle' Bullard, the investigation will continue to remain open in regards to whether Wilson received any assistance after he committed these crimes," Carter said at a news conference.

Bullard's mother, Karen Riojas, had complained for months that authorities didn't take her daughter's disappearance seriously and were slow to investigate the case.

"Finally, someone stood up and looked at this case and the facts," she said Thursday.

Still, Riojas said identifying Wilson as her daughter's killer doesn't provide any closure for her.

"He took something that was beyond precious to me – just priceless – (and I) can't regain it," Riojas said. "To me, even though today is Michelle's justice day, two wrongs don't make a right.

"May David rest in peace. May Michelle rest in peace."

Wilson's family is distressed by the statement Thursday.

"I won't believe it untill I see some evidence. I have not seen any evidence," David Wilson's brother, William, said. He added that he did not understand why investigators would resurrect the case without disclosing new information.

The Wilsons' sister, Joyce Horton, said, "I believe in my heart my brother did not do this. They have got to show some proof. They want to close a case on a dead man. They want to close a case on my brothers name."

Investigators said an armed man wearing a mask broke into a mobile home where Bullard was watching television with three friends. The gunman tied the friends with tape and left each in a separate room, then stole cash and small valuables.

By the time the victims freed themselves, Bullard and the intruder were gone.

Bullard's wallet and purse turned up a few weeks later along a road in southeastern Cumberland County. But intensive searches by authorities and volunteers turned up no trace of her.

In October 2006, a hunter found Bullard's remains in an old cemetery in the Cedar Creek community of Cumberland County, five miles from where her belongings turned up.

An autopsy report stated Bullard died of blunt force trauma to the head. The report said there was no evidence of injuries other than a blow to the left side of her head.