Local News

Archaeologists join search for missing Hope Mills man

Posted May 26, 2010 11:35 a.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2010 6:18 p.m. EDT

Kent Jacobs was last seen about two miles from his mother's Hope Mills home on March 10, 2002.

— The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office turned to archaeologists on Wednesday to help solve the case of a Hope Mills man missing for eight years.

Kent Jacobs, who family members said has a disability that left him with the mental capacity of a 9-year-old, was 42 when he disappeared from a Hope Mills neighborhood about 2 miles from his mother's home on March 10, 2002.

He was last seen near Brooklyn Circle and Hulan Street, the neighborhood where he lived as a child, authorities said.

About five months after his disappearance, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office began treating the case as a homicide.

Geologist Ron Crowson and forensic archaeologist Billy Oliver, both of North Carolina State University, used hi-tech equipment to search a wooded lot off of Brooklyn Circle on Wednesday.

Previous searches through the area turned up nothing, but Sgt. Nan Trogdon, a new detective recently assigned to the case, said she received a credible lead indicating that Jacobs' body might have been buried in the area.

"The lead was good enough that we felt this was something we had to follow up on, that way we closed every door and searched every avenue," Trogdon said.

The sheriff’s office obtained a search warrant for the property on Hulon Drive, and said they will be searching several parcels in the area. One of the items sought is a refrigerator, investigators said.

Crowson said crews were using electromagnetic scanners that can detect objects more than 30 feet deep. The devices can sense bone matter, jewelry and disturbances in the soil.

“The equipment is what we call bump finders,” Crowson said. “They’re looking for change in the soil or changes that give a hint that there might be something buried there.”

One of the pieces of equipment being used is a GEM 3M, which Crowson says is one of only ten that exist in the world. The military is has possession of eight GEM 3Ms, which can detect objects as thin as a wire.

Crews are also using a ground penetration radar, which indicates abnormalities in the soil.

“We’ll be able to differentiate certain types of material by the strength of the signal,” Oliver said.

When the equipment detects something, the scientists flag it for law officers to investigate. Six spots were flagged on Wednesday, officials said.

Crowson and Oliver are part of the North Carolina Project for Forensic Science, which formed in 2005. The group has assisted in about 70 homicide investigations across the state.

The search of the wooded lot is expected to last two days, investigators said.