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Human remains found in crawl space identified as female veteran reported missing six years ago

Police caution tape.(Dreamstime/TNS)

Human remains found in the crawl space of a Fulton home in January are those of a Fulton woman who went missing in early 2016.

In a statement released March 30, Fulton Police Chief Mitch Nabors and Itawamba County Coroner Shelia Summerford confirmed the remains found at a residence on East Hill Street are those of Deborah Evans-Bell, according to the findings of the Mississippi State Crime Lab.

DNA results show the match to be 99.4% certain, according to the release. The cause and manner of death are yet to be determined pending the findings of the Mississippi Crime Lab.

Evans-Bell was in her mid-50s when she was reported missing in early February 2016, although police at the time said the actual date of her disappearance was unclear.

Evans-Bell’s remains were discovered inside the crawl space of her former residence after the current occupants contacted a plumber to repair a water leak. Investigators retrieved the remains and transported them to the Mississippi State Crime Lab.

Bell was reported missing on Feb. 8, 2016, after she allegedly left home for a doctor’s appointment. A military veteran, Bell frequented several VA medical facilities, including the Memphis VA Medical Center, the Tupelo VA Clinic and the Plantersville Family Clinic. Police officials at the time reported that Evans-Bell couldn’t drive and would often catch rides with friends and family or use an area transit company when she needed to travel.

Law enforcement officials in 2016 reported that Evans-Bell never arrived at any of the clinics she frequented.

Although reported missing in February, investigators in 2016 suspected Bell may have been missing for far longer. According to many of the people interviewed by police in connection with her disappearance, Evans-Bell hadn’t been seen since early January. Police reportedly interviewed dozens of her friends and family.

Bell was well known around Fulton, even outside her neighborhood. She frequently walked the downtown court square, visiting with local business owners and officials.

In the weeks that followed her disappearance, law enforcement officials worked alongside Evans-Bell’s friends and family to conduct multiple searches in and around the area of her home.

In late February 2016, then-police chief Reggie Johnson told The Itawamba County Times they were investigating Evans-Bell’s disappearance as a missing persons case, but not a crime.

“We’ve had no indication of foul play,” Johnson said in 2016. “We’re hoping and praying she’s just gone off somewhere.”

In late March 2016, a search of Bell’s phone records, which investigators hoped would provide clues as to her whereabouts in the days after she went missing, proved fruitless. According to the subpoenaed records, Bell had made no calls since the day she went missing.

The investigation largely ground to a halt after that.

“It’s like she’s fallen off the face of the earth,” Johnson said at the time.

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(c) 2021 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

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