Pet duck helps deputies discover body of NC woman; couple charged

BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. — A pet duck led deputies to the body of a North Carolina woman who has been missing since 2020, and a couple, including the woman’s granddaughter, have been charged in her death, authorities said.

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“If I could give that duck a medal, I would,” Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mark Walker told WLOS-TV.

Angela Lucille Wamsley, 46, and Mark Alan Barnes, 50, were both charged with first-degree murder, according to Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office online booking records.

Wamsley’s grandmother, Nellie Sullivan, was determined to be missing in 2020, Walker told WLOS.

Last week, deputies attended the autopsy of a body found last week in Candler, which was identified as Sullivan, a woman in her 90s, WPSA-TV reported.

The sheriff’s office said it opened an investigation in December 2020 involving Wamsley and Barnes, according to WYFF-TV. The couple was charged with concealing a death, the television station reported.

Investigators were unable to find Sullivan’s body until this month, WLOS reported.

“Mark (Barnes) actually sent us on a wild goose chase which resulted in us digging for several days in a site that he knew she was not located at,” Walker said.

Years of search warrants and state and federal assistance led nowhere. But instead of the web, a webbed animal helped deputies crack the case.

Walker said they learned about a body when the residents at the former trailer were Wamsley and Barnes lived were chasing after their pet duck.

“Apparently, the duck ran underneath the trailer ... and as they were chasing after their pet duck, they ran across the container that Nellie Sullivan was located in,” Walker told WLOS.

Walker said the couple concealed Sullivan’s body and continued to collect her Social Security and retirement benefits while also continuing to fill her prescriptions, the television station reported.

“I would like to say that I’m never surprised anymore, but this case -- it was surprising,” Walker said.

Wamsley and Barnes are scheduled to appear in court on May 31, online records show.