Body found in woods of Love Grove community; autopsy scheduled

RAW: Basic law enforcement students coming out of the woods
Dozens of detectives with the Wilmington Police Department searched the woods Friday in the Love Grove Community.
Dozens of detectives with the Wilmington Police Department searched the woods Friday in the Love Grove Community.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A body was discovered Friday near the railroad tracks in the Love Grove community, according to Wilmington Police. The remains were found one mile from where 83-year-old Alma Lawson went missing in November.

As part of a WPD-organized search, students from a basic law enforcement class found a personal item that may have belonged to Lawson.

That, in turn, led to other items being found down the hill, next to the railroad track.

From there, searchers saw a body in a ravine, partially submerged in water. They cut through thick vegetation to get to it.

In November, during the first few weeks that she disappeared, police were constantly searching in the Love Grove area and surrounding areas, and focused on wooded areas, a creek and parkland near where she lived.

Lawson was reported missing by her son after she didn't return home from visiting a nearby friend.

As time went on, detectives continued to search for Lawson. They conducted a sweep on New Year's Eve on an abandoned railroad bed between Love Grove and Lawson's church, located at Eighth and Bladen Streets.

But Friday's search was farther northwest along the railroad track than previously, going about a mile from where Lawson was last seen.

Kevin Smith with the Wilmington Police Department says an autopsy will likely take place Monday to give a positive identification. Smith says it is too soon to tell if foul play was involved in this situation.

Friday's search was organized by Police Captain Jeff Allsbrook. About a dozen detectives from the Criminal Investigations Division, including two officers assigned to the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitives Task Force, were also part of the search.

The following groups have continuously helped in the search to find Lawson since she went missing, according to police:

-WPD K-9 Unit and Mounted Unit

-Wilmington Fire Department

-New Hanover County Sheriff's marine unit and dive team

-SABLE (crews conducted at least three aerial searches)

-Cape Fear Public Utility Authority swamp vehicle

-Brunswick Search and Rescue

-Roxy Marshall and her K-9 partners (independent search team from Rutherford County)

-U. S. Marshals Service

-Cape Fear Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) class members

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