Nellie Sullivan was 91 when she disappeared in 2020, sparking a police search. A breakthrough came when a pet duck waddled under the home of two suspects in Beady Eyed Lane, Candler, North Carolina on April 14.
Police had returned to the home of Ms Sullivan’s granddaughter Angela Wamsley and her partner Mark Barnes to continue their search.
Sergeant Mark Walker of Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, said: “Mark 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.”
While officers were digging elsewhere, they spotted a duck run under the trailer.
Sergeant Walker told local station ABC1 News: “As they were chasing after their pet duck, they ran across the container that Nellie Sullivan was located in. If I could give that duck a medal, I would.”
The officer added that investigators had strong evidence Ms Sullivan, a vulnerable grandmother with dementia, was killed not long after she went missing.
He said: “Instead of receiving the care she needed from those that are supposed to love her the most, she received the exact opposite in the worst possible way.”
Ms Wamsley, 46, and Mr Barnes, 50, have since been charged with first-degree murder following the discovery of the remains.
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Officers also believe Ms Sullivan was killed at another location before her body was taken to the trailer.
The remains have been sent to a medical examiner to determine the cause of death.
Ms Wamsley and Mr Barnes were allegedly collecting Ms Sullivan’s social security and retirement benefit cheques and refilling her prescriptions, according to officials.
They are due in court on May 13. It unclear whether they have entered pleas.