Early Monday morning a young woman was reported to have been abducted at gunpoint from a home in the rural community of Broadway, NC. Julie Michelle Bullard, 23 was one of only 4 people in the mobile home trailer that night when an armed masked man entered an unlocked door at the rear of the house. The house belonged to Michelle's new boyfriend Will and they were there with another couple when they were surprised by the intruder around 1 AM.
The man ushered the four into separate rooms, bound them with tape and searched the house for a stash of money. When three of the four freed themselves they noticed that Michelle was gone, along with the intruder. She hasn't been seen or heard from since then.
The following day a search team began a four square mile effort to locate Michelle. A K-9 from Harnett County supposedly led the team to a nearby pond located a hundred yards or so behind the trailer. Divers poked and prodded in the pond and turned up nothing. The pond is maybe two acres in size and no more than 5 feet deep.
I spoke with a neighbor and he had little to say except that he was surprised to find so many police cars when he woke Monday morning.
According to news reports all three survivors of the home invasion differed in their accounts of the kidnapping.
I have been following crime reports gathering information for the radio show and a few observations come to mind regarding this case.
First of all eyewitness accounts, depending on their psychological stress level, physiological issues such as eye problems or the levels of drugs or alcohol in their system, and of course environmental concerns such as lighting, visibility, proximity and distractions, vary in reliability. Studies are proving more and more that eyewitness accounts are not 100% accurate, in fact some are only 40% accurate.
Secondly, when an intruder separates the occupants of the house he has done so for only a couple of reasons, to interrogate each occupant separately and/or to kill them. Perhaps in this case the intruder wanted to know where the money was, perhaps he planned on killing them. Perhaps he was intent on committing a sex crime against the two female occupants and meant to stay a while.
Third and more disturbing is that most of these types of home invasions are drug related, either someone owes someone money and it is an enforcement action or it is a drug user that believes that a large pile of money and drugs await him if he can rob a drug dealer of his loot. Rarely are the victims of such robberies eager to tell police the absolute truth. If this was a drug related robbery gone wrong then this compounds the sad tragedy for the family of Michelle Bullard.
By all accounts Michelle was one of those honest and dependable type of people that would not consciously associate with a drug dealer. Her fellow workers and her employer all describe her as a wonderful, warm, friendly young woman. Little evidence to support a relationship to drugs.
But women do pick the wrong guy from time to time with hopes of changing them so unfortunately anything is possible.
When I pulled up to Michelle's house on Tuesday the first thing I noticed outside her trailer was the big black Cadillac Escalade with 26-inch chrome rims. I noticed this even before I noticed the two detective cars parked along side of the pimped-out SUV. When I entered the small spotlessly clean trailer I met Michelle's blond roommate and two young guys, one that looked right out of some Emimen entourage, and the other looked to be from out of town. I went to Michelle's home to speak with Bullard’s grandmother, Terzel Brown. Mrs. Brown was a kind woman that looked to me to be a well disciplined woman with a countrified life full of pleasant memories regarding family and friends. She looked to be the type that would bring a Hummingbird cake to the church night covered dish, she had character, a positive outlook and fit perfectly with her grandaughter's Americana decor.
Inside the well kept home of Michelle and her equally as young roommate I saw family photos and a few silk flowered arrangements scattered about. A frisky black and white kitten named Gizmo played up and down my wife Erica's pant leg while an old salt and peppered dog sat facing the door.
The one thing that stood out like a sore thumb was a splintered door jam that looked to have been kicked in while the door was locked. I found out that law enforcement broke into the house in search for Michelle.
The detectives that were there were gathering some items of Michelle's to have tested by the SBI lab. I would assume they wanted DNA evidence for a future match should they need it later. They came inside while I was there for the roommate to sign a release listing the toothbrush and hairbrush taken earlier and placed in brown paper bags. The roommate, and I am sorry I forgot her name, suggested that the detectives take a pair of Michelle's underwear. At first I thought, oh-oh another CSI television viewer telling the cops how to handle evidence. But the roommate had an excellent point. Several people have been in and out of the house since Michelle's disappearance and both the hairbrush and toothbrush were in the bathroom, anyone could have used either or both items, even though it seemed unlikely someone would use the toothbrush. However, as the roommate pointed out, no one would have worn Michelle's panties and certainly there would be DNA evidence captured in the fabric of the underwear among Michelle's modest pile of dirty clothes. The detectives agreed.
PERSON OF INTEREST
One thing the authorities are not in total agreement on, at least in public, is the association of Michelle's disappearance to the curious suicide Monday afternoon of a man in neighboring Lillington, NC. David Wilson, 49 was reported missing to law enforcement on Monday morning by his wife. Around 7PM on Monday a Harnett County Deputy Sheriff spotted Wilson in his vehicle on McArthur Road just south of Broadway, northwest of Seminole (in fact McArthur turns into Broadway's Main Street a couple of miles up the road) and a few miles west of Lillington. The deputy followed Wilson's pickup truck east on 421 towards Lillington, stopped it and as the deputy approached the truck Wilson drove off. The deputy pursued Wilson until Wilson pulled over to the side of the road less than a couple of miles from his home. (approximately 6 miles from the site of the Bullard abduction) When the deputy approached Wilson's pickup truck, Wilson shot and killed himself.
David Wilson was employed as plumber with a Raleigh company. Our investigation found that Wilson was convicted of second degree murder in 1975 and was released from parole in 2003. The DOC lists his height as 5'10 inches with brown hair and brown eyes, he had numerous infractions while in prison, including escape, assault, weapons possession, drugs and creating an offensive condition.
The description released early on of the abductor was a white man approximately 5' 8" tall being in his mid-thirties.
Did authorities get a dog to go over Wilson's truck? What was he wearing when he shot himself? Are his clothes in a lab right now being tested? And where is Michelle? Is she alive hidden away somewhere? Some hunting camp, a tent in the woods or is she in an abandoned house or motel room somewhere?
Let's hope so and let's hope that she will be found soon. We are praying for you Michelle!
Anyone with information about Julie Michelle Bullard's disappearance is urged to contact the Lee County Sheriff's Office in Sanford, NC at (919) 775-5531 or call 911 immediately.