Two weeks after her disappearance from the Wilmington community, 30-year-old Ebonee Shanetta Spears is still missing.
So far, local efforts by the city’s police department have not been able to find a trace of Spears since her disappearance from her home in the 1300 block of Brooklyn Lane in the The Pointe at Taylor Estates community near downtown Wilmington on the evening of Jan. 15, according to investigators.
Family members reported Spears missing the following day. Since that time, detectives with the Wilmington Police Department have been on an active search, hitting many parts of the Wilmington area and searching as far as Brunswick County in the Leland and Riegelwood areas, according to Detective Jim Sneed, the lead investigator on the case.
Spears’ former colleagues at the University of North Carolina Wilmington are concerned, since her disappearance doesn’t mesh with the conscientious, reliable young mother they knew.
Missing person posters for Spears have been placed throughout the Wilmington community – many have been found along local streets, in front of local gas stations and business.
According to the Center for Missing Persons post about Spears dated Jan. 19, she is described as a 5-foot 8-inch tall black female who weighs about 130 pounds. She has brown hair, brown eyes and a tattoo of a rose on her foot. She was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.
The lead detective said he continues to work actively on the case and has been searching many avenues to find clues that could help find Spears. Tips from the community have been pouring in since the police department sent the news out into the community, Sneed said.
“I have 12 notebook pages full of people to call and message…It is unending,” Sneed said about the number of tips he has received since Spears’ disappearance.
“We’ve been sending detectives and officers all over the place,” Sneed said. “We’ve been keeping in contact with the family quite a bit, letting them know as much as we can….But the problem is as long this goes on, some people will say its old news.”
The police department has been and continues to use its resources to the fullest, Sneed said, noting that the agency has sent out their SABLE helicopter on multiple passes in search areas, and has used the department’s K-9 Unit as well as search dogs from Brunswick County.
The tips have sent detectives to the airport, the courthouse and downtown parking lots. Searches have been extended down local railroad tracks, walking trials and pathways, and in “worst cases” all bodies of water and ravines in the general search area near her home.
Sneed said he has been through hours of video he has been led to though tips, but the videos have shown no signs of Spears. “Most missing person cases you will have signs or clues that they were getting ready to take off somewhere, but not this one,” Sneed said.
The police department checks Spears’ home frequently in the chance she may return. But now detectives are working to extend efforts in taking a look into the days before and after her disappearance through obtaining phone records and financial statements, anything that could give them a sign of activity, Sneed said.
So far, there has been no indication that Spears has used her phone since the night of her disappearance, said Sneed. He’s been working with Spears’ phone company to get updates every 15 minutes for any sign of activity and has worked to extend the notifications, as he waits to receive her records.
“Her phone has been off since she went missing. It hasn’t powered up at all,” Sneed said. “No one has her phone that we are aware of.”
The police department is investigating all possibilities, but Sneed said there has been no foul play suspected in her disappearance through his investigation, thus far.
As police department efforts are underway, a GoFundMe page was recently set up to gather funds for search efforts. The page says funds raised will be used to purchase materials, man power, equipment and a reward for the search and safe return of Spears. The page was created on Jan. 27 and the effort has drawn in more than $500 with a goal to raise $2,000 in funds.
“The family of Ebonee Spears needs your help,” a post reads on the fund page. “The family really appreciates all the love shown and given for our Sweetheart, Ebonee Spears.”
The UNC-Wilmington community has also shown support and thoughts for the family, as Spears was a temporary employee at the university who started last spring, according to records with UNCW. While she is no longer working with the university, she is revered as a member of the extended Seahawk family.
Janine Iamunno, executive director at UNCW’s Office of University Relations, said, “We take ‘Once a Seahawk, always a Seahawk’ very seriously. So while Ebonee may no longer be on our campus, we still consider her a part of the extended family, and are very concerned about her well-being.”
According to Dr. Paul Townend, chair of the university’s history department, Spears worked at the department’s front office last spring and summer, and worked closely with the faculty.
“We got to know her well and appreciated her presence, attitude and energy,” Townend said. “Ebonee was wonderful to be around, and she often talked about how much she loved her daughter. She was very dedicated to her daughter, and so responsible and reliable in general; I know if she hasn’t come home, it is something very serious and she needs the help of this community. We shouldn’t rest until she’s found, and we need to pray for her, for her family, and for her daughter until she is safely home.”
A candlelight vigil for Spears is taking place at 1205 N. Fifth St. at 7 p.m. Friday, according to police spokeswoman Cathryn Lindsay. The event is being hosted by the Center for Missing Persons, family and friends. Members of the community are invited to attend.