NC woman missing since December now believed to have been murdered

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WECT) –  – The disappearance of a Garland woman is now being treated as a homicide investigation, an investigator with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office says.

In a media briefing Tuesday morning, investigators said they have identified persons of interest in 53-year-old Judith Hyder’s disappearance, but they do not have any suspects at this time.

Hyder was last seen by her roommate on Dec. 7, who reported her missing on Dec. 9. About a week later, authorities found Hyder’s car abandoned a couple of miles from where she was staying.

According to Bladen County Sheriff’s Office Major Larry Guyton, law enforcement has not been able to locate Hyder’s cell phone or purse.

“She’s basically just fallen off the face of the earth,” Lt. Morgan Johnson, the lead investigator on the case, said Tuesday.

Investigators mentioned that Hyder has been without multiple medications since her disappearance.

“We haven’t found her yet, but without her being located, without her reaching out to family, without her getting refills on her medication, that’s why we are gearing it more toward a homicide,” Johnson explained.

Johnson said search crews spent Tuesday morning looking in the area where Hyder’s cell phone last pinged, about 400 meters away from the 5000 block of Old Fayetteville Road in Ammon.

Crews conducted “grid searches” for Hyder, which allow law enforcement to assign a search team to a specific area.

“We’re kind of in a way looking for a needle in a haystack,” Johnson explained. “Phone, purse, any items that might be related to a woman.”

Johnson added while crews were searching Monday they noticed a lot of snakes in the area, and that they wanted to return to the area early Tuesday before the conditions became too warm. Another area of interest involves hog farms and chicken houses in the Oakland area of the county.

“What we’re looking for is a possible hasty grave,” Johnson said. “If she might have been exposed by now, her body would have deteriorated, it might be spread.”

A number of resources are being used in the search, including K9 units and helicopters.

“We have done aerial searches and ground searches with cadaver dogs,” said Guyton in an email.

Multiple agencies, including the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, Bladen County Emergency Services and volunteers from Ammon Fire Department are taking part in the search. Law enforcement from Pender and Brunswick counties are also assisting.

Search efforts are expected to wrap at around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Investigators said the people who last saw Hyder are not cooperating in the case.

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