Local News

Family, neighbors stunned by Hope Mills neglect case

Posted March 25, 2011 3:22 p.m. EDT
Updated March 25, 2011 6:01 p.m. EDT

— Allegations that a Hope Mills woman allowed her mother to die covered in feces and maggots shocked the woman's family and neighbors.

Nancy Byrd Lewis, 58, was charged Wednesday with domestic abuse, neglect and exploitation of disabled or elderly adults.

Investigators with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said Lewis called 911 on Nov. 19 to report that her mother was unresponsive. Paramedics found that Hazel Tolbert Byrd, 79, was dead and was lying in several days worth of feces and covered in maggots from her waist to her feet.

Authorities determined that Byrd, who was filthy and had numerous skin ulcers and matted hair, had been dead four or five days before Lewis called for help.

"Terrible, just really terrible. I wouldn't have thought it," Connie Tolbert, Byrd's sister-in-law, said in a phone interview Friday from her Mount Airy home.

Tolbert said Lewis called her in November to inform her of Byrd's death, but she never disclosed any details.

"She was real upset. She was crying," Tolbert said. “It didn’t really dawn on me that anything was wrong, other than (the death).”

Anthony Hammond, a neighbor of Lewis, said he never knew Lewis' mother lived with her.

"I can't see her doing that. She was a real nice lady. She spoke real polite and everything. I think it's a shame," Hammond said.

Byrd literally had a Mayberry childhood, growing up in Mount Airy and walking to church with Andy Griffith, the star of the 1960s television show set in a fictional version of their hometown, according to Tolbert.

"She just always seemed like a happy person," Tolbert said. "(We) talked and laughed. She'd enjoy the visit (to Mount Airy)."

Lewis, who was released after posting a $5,000 bond, couldn't be reached Friday for comment.

Authorities said it took five months to file charges in the case because they needed to investigate fully the details of Byrd's death.