Deborah Deans, 29, left four children when she vanished in 2004 -- and a tip to a Facebook page led police to find remains behind a home she shared with the suspect
A Facebook page devoted to the murdered, missing or miscreant residents of western North Carolina is being credited with helping authorities bring charges in the 15-year-old cold-case killing of a missing mom of four, allegedly at the hands of her sister-in-law.
The tip that led authorities to a “shallow grave” containing the remains believed to be those of 29-year-old Deborah Elaine Deans “proved to be very accurate and very reliable,” Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone told reporters last week.
But the tipster did not go to police at first.
Instead, the unidentified person sent information about the alleged crime to a woman who created and runs a Facebook page called Fighting Crime News and Who’s Wanted, an online outlet whose updates range from wanted posters to promotions of local elections and warnings about traffic tie-ups.
On October 20, a re-post about the unsolved missing-person case of Deans — who was last seen around 9 a.m. on January 19, 2004, at a residence on Wiley Road in Spring Hope — elicited a “very detailed” response that was forwarded to authorities by the Facebook page creator, said Nash.
Those details, according to the woman who created the page and wants to stay anonymous, included descriptions about where and how the body was buried behind the Wiley Road residence that Deans formerly shared with Kimberly Hancock.
“I can’t say what it actually said,” she told WTVD. “But it was pretty in-depth.”
Hancock, 49, still lived at the residence. Authorities who followed up on the tip began digging on the property Thursday and arrested Hancock, who was charged the same day with first-degree murder.
It was not immediately clear if Hancock had an attorney who could speak on her behalf. She is being held without bond at the Nash County Detention Center, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.
Hancock had been questioned about Deans’ disappearance after Deans’ mom reported her missing in April 2004. But Hancock said she’d not seen Deans since the previous January, when the two argued and Deans allegedly called for a ride, leaving behind two of her children, an infant and a 5-year-old, according to the Rocky Mount Telegram.
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Hancock told authorities that Deans called her two months later seeking the return of her children, but Hancock refused; the children later wound up in foster care. Deans’ other two children were with their grandmother at the time.
“She has four children, and she would not have left those children,” Deans mother, Elaine Blevins, told the Telegram in November 2004. “This is not like Debbie, for no one, not even her friends, to have seen and talked to her.”
Hancock later was charged with forgery of an instrument and uttering forged instrument for cashing child support checks mailed to Deans, reports WNCN.
On Friday, the Fighting Crime Facebook page administrator posted an item from Deans’ mother that reads: “Thank you. Small words that cover so much. 15 years goes by in the blink of an eye when you talk about a child starting school and then leaving for college, but when those 15 years are overshadowed by a missing loved one, they are long-long years. While we all hoped, we also knew in our hearts that we would never see her smile again. THANK YOU SO MUCH!”
PEOPLE was unable to independently reach the Facebook page creator, who was identified by WTVD as “an unassuming Nash County wife.”
“It makes me feel good that I can kind of be that liaison between the police and the citizens,” she told the outlet. “I feel like I’m doing my civic duty,” she added. “Just happy that the family gets closure. But I was also sad that it’s now gonna open up wounds that they probably didn’t want open.”
She told WNCN that she created the Facebook page about seven years ago. “I’ve been posting Deborah since probably a year after I started my website,” she said. “It makes you wonder why, after all these years, someone finally wanted to come up and say something, but I’m glad they did.”
Hancock was charged with manslaughter and received a six-year suspended sentence in 1990 after authorities say that as an 18-year-old, she fatally shot her father as he slept; the charge was reduced because the sheriff’s office said there was abuse in the relationship, reports WTVD.
Fighting Crime also posted on Friday that Hancock’s brother, Roger Wade Ayscue, known to friends as “Kojak,” was reported missing in Franklin County, Tennessee, in September 2009, two months after family members last reported contact with him. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has offered a $5,000 reward for information on his whereabouts.