Local News

Authorities try to crack 68-year-old cold case

Posted January 6, 2009 1:32 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— State Bureau of Investigation agents looked under a home in Carolina Beach on Tuesday for the remains of a woman and her daughter missing for 68 years.

Lelia Bryan, 36, and her 4-year-old daughter, Mary Rachel Bryan, went missing on May 10, 1941, according to The Charley Project, which documents missing person cases. They were last seen around 9 p.m. leaving the family’s home on Raleigh Avenue. Bryan was driving her husband’s 1935 Ford Model A coupe with North Carolina plates numbered 219-056.

The two were never seen again and the vehicle was never recovered, according to The Charley Project.

Police once considered Bryan’s husband, Edis C. “E.C.” Bryan, a prime suspect in the case, but he was never charged. He died in the 1970s.

Lelia Bryan’s surviving family members said that at the time of her disappearance, Edis Bryan was in the process of renovating the home and building a concrete basement.

The women were declared dead in 1948, though no remains were found.

Lelia Bryan's nephew, Lewis Smith, has been fighting for decades to search for clues under the home.

In November, the current homeowner agreed to let crews search under the floor using deep-penetrating radar. Authorities noticed three anomalies under the concrete.

“This is to either rule in or rule out the house,” Smith said Tuesday

SBI agents and forensic scientists cut slabs of concrete from the basement of the home. Agents sifted through mounds of dirt from beneath the concrete and, late Tuesday, announced they found an animal bone, possibly from a deer, and shards of glass. No human remains were found, officials said.

At this point, investigators have cleared the scene as a possible burial site for the missing mother and daughter.