Local News

Bragg soldier Kelli Bordeaux's remains found; suspect arrested

Posted May 14, 2014 3:47 p.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2014 1:26 p.m. EDT

— Police investigators said Wednesday they believe they have found the remains of a 23-year-old Fort Bragg soldier who disappeared more than two years ago and a suspect has been arrested.

Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock said Pfc. Kelli Bordeaux's remains were found Wednesday morning in a deeply wooded area off River Road near the Interstate 295 corridor – approximately 4 miles from the bar where she was last seen alive in the early morning of April 14, 2012.

Nicholas Michael Holbert, 27, a man who has been interviewed numerous times by investigators, was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. He remained at the Cumberland County jail early Thursday with no bond.

"This is a very sad recovery in that we all hoped Pfc. Bordeaux was alive and well," Medlock said. "But we also are comforted in this community that we have taken an individual off the streets who has created this terrible tragedy."

Holbert "shared vital information" and was at the scene with detectives when they found Bordeaux's remains in the very-wooded, dense area, the police chief said. He would not confirm reports that Holbert confessed.

"With the help of a citizen, we were able to bring this case to a conclusion," Medlock said.

It will take several days to confirm the remains are those of Bordeaux, Medlock said, but he said there was "enough" forensic information to believe that the remains are hers.

"Unfortunately, while the case is two years and some months old, the fact is that were still now beginning to process and backtrack and connecting the dots with what we've found today with what we've learned about the night of her disappearance," he said. "So, there's still a lot of work to be done."

Bordeaux's family went 'through hell and back'

A combat medic with Fort Bragg's 601st Area Support Medical Company 44th Medical Brigade, Bordeaux was last seen leaving a bar at 6326 Ramsey St. in north Fayetteville called Froggy Bottoms.

Bordeaux's family was notified Wednesday afternoon, Medlock said. Her sister, Olivia Cox, said the news was only partially comforting.

"I think my initial reaction was that I was more mad than anything," she said. "I mean, why today of all days? What made you decide to say something, and on top of that, what made you wait so long? We literally have been through hell and back begging and pleading and praying, just trying to bring her home."

Cox described the more than two year wait as unfair.

"I don't feel any better about the situation than I did yesterday," she said. "The knowledge of knowing that she's not being held captive, that she's not being tortured, that's where the partial relief comes in. But the fact that this is the end result. I mean two years and one month of begging, and this is it?"

Fort Bragg officials, who reported her missing April 16, 2012, released statements afternoon saying they were "deeply saddened" by Wednesday's discovery.

"We honor her memory and will always remember her vibrant spirit, her love of life and her loyal and dedicated service to our Army and nation as a combat medic," Bordeaux's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Heather A. Kness, said in a statement.

Arrest warrants: Holbert repeatedly hit Bordeaux

In the years since Bordeaux's disappearance, police have released few details about their investigation.

What they have said is that two text messages were sent from her cellphone after she left Froggy Bottoms, including one that said she had arrived home. Investigators have said they don't believe Bordeaux sent that one.

Arrest warrants issued Wednesday and obtained by The Fayetteville Observer, say that Holbert and Bordeaux arrived together at the now-closed Froggy Bottoms and were there for several hours before getting into a fight in the parking lot. Holbert hit Bordeaux and knocked her unconscious, the warrant says.

He then put Bordeaux in his car and drove her to his camp site behind the bar, where he hit her several more times in the head, the warrant continues.

Medlock said Wednesday that detectives think Bordeaux was dead when Holbert allegedly dumped her body in the woods – an area that had no specific connection to him.

"He just simply located it at the spur of the moment," he said.

Holbert's reaction to his arrest, Medlock said, appeared to be one of both nervousness and relief.

A registered sex offender, Holbert was a frequent patron of Froggy Bottoms. The bar's owner, Steve Cantrell, said in 2012 that Holbert often worked odd jobs in the area in exchange for food.

Cantrell said he also had been living in a lean-to in the woods behind the bar after being released from prison, where he spent seven years for indecent liberties with a child and child abuse.

Bordeaux, of St. Cloud, Fla., had been married for two years. Her husband was visiting family in Florida at the time of her disappearance.

The case attracted nationwide attention for months and drew volunteers from across the country to Fayetteville to help investigators and the military search for Bordeaux in secluded areas around Froggy Bottoms and in north Fayetteville.

Medlock said the site where Bordeaux's remains were discovered hadn't been actively searched.

"This is a place that she could’ve been – with all those hundreds of acres in that 4-mile stretch – she could have been virtually anywhere," Medlock said. "It was specific information from Holbert that took us to that location."

Numerous sheriff's deputies guarded the crime scene Wednesday afternoon as investigators moved ATVs and generators into the area to begin recovery efforts.

"It was difficult to locate her remains," Medlock said.