Saturday, September 23, 2023

New details in case of missing Wilmington mom; reward upped

Spears' missing person poster posted just a block away from her home on
Spears’ missing person poster posted near her apartment, which is close to downtown Wilmington.

New details have been released in the disappearance of 30-year-old Ebonee Spears, a local woman and mother who went missing from the Wilmington area nearly four weeks ago. A $5,000 reward is now being offered for information that would lead to her whereabouts.

Investigators have tracked Spears’ last known whereabouts to in front of her apartment around midnight Friday, Jan. 15, according to Wilmington Police Department Capt. Jim Varrone, commander of the Criminal Investigative Division. Just hours before, Spears was at Wilmington police headquarters on Bess Street at about 8 p.m.

Spears was at the police department, which is within walking distance from her home, trying to make a phone call, Varrone said. She apparently became frustrated and walked away from the building. Varrone said the police department did not find a record of any phone call made on their courtesy phone at that time.

In each sighting, both at the police department and at her apartment in the 1300 block of Brooklyn Lane in the The Pointe at Taylor Estates community near downtown Wilmington, Spears was reportedly alone.

“She wasn’t with anybody…at the time,” Varrone said.

Family members reported Spears missing the following day, on Jan. 16. Since the report, the captain said investigators have been on an active search for her whereabouts and have searched as far as Atlanta, Georgia.

Last week, investigators spent two days in Atlanta searching for Spears, but Varrone said, “It was a lead that didn’t turn out to be what we had hoped.”

Investigators and other officers have also searched locally on foot, by helicopter and mounted patrols and have used search dogs. Spears reportedly left her purse, keys, cell phone and other personal belongings behind. There was no indication that Spears was going to leave town, Varrone said.

“We have searched the physical area around where she lives [and] around police headquarters. We know that she doesn’t have her cars…so we know she doesn’t have, at least, her own cars for transportation. If she is driving a car it isn’t hers,” Varrone said. “We are constantly going back…rechecking the area.”

Investigators have “back tracked” over the search areas, looking for any trace of Spears, Varrone said. Detectives have also conducted several interviews with family members, friends and known associates, but so far, nothing in the investigation has led detectives to suspect foul play was involved in Spears’ disappearance.

Detectives have yet to find any sign of any activity in her phone records, personal bank accounts, or on her social media websites, Varrone said.

“We have not had luck with that so far. We have not given up. We are still checking,” Varrone said.

Ebonee Spears
Ebonee Spears. Photo released by the Wilmington Police Department.

About a week ago the local Center for Missing Persons (CUE) had offered up $3000 for any information that could lead to Spears’ whereabouts. But the reward was increased by CrimeStoppers to $5,000 on Wednesday.

“The CUE has helped in the search. They have been really good about helping out with this…There is a lot going on. There is a lot of active leads,” Varrone said. “We look at every lead and we have been following up. We have found nobody that has had contact with her since the day before she went missing.”

“Our goal is to get her reunited with her family,” Varrone said. “As each day goes by, we get more and more concerned, of course. We’ve turned over every stone.”

But, Varrone said he remains hopeful that the police department, with the community’s help, will be able to bring Spears home to her family.

“It is a mystery, but I’m still cautiously optimistic that we will come across her sooner than later,” Varrone said. “We haven’t given up. Hopefully, as more leads develop we will release them.”

As police department’s search efforts continue, a GoFundMe page set up to gather funds for purchasing materials, man power for search efforts, equipment and a reward for safe return of Spears, has drawn in more than $1,000 as of Wednesday. The page was created Jan. 27, with a goal to raise $2,000 in funds.

Read related story: Have you seen Ebonee? Tips pour in as police search for missing Wilmington mom

“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 Spears and her family. Spears worked at UNCW as a temporary employee at the university and started last spring. While she is no longer working with the university, she is considered a member of the extended Seahawk family, who was known to the university community as conscientious, reliable young mother.

Anyone with information about Spears or her whereabouts is asked to contact the Wilmington Police Department at 910-343-3609 or Text-A-Tip to CRIMES. Start your message with Tip708, then type your tip. Information can also be given to CrimeStoppers at 1 (800) 531-9845.

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