In Buncombe County, North Carolina, an elderly female hiker was reported missing at 1:25 p.m. on May 3. Her friend reported her missing to the authorities. A search and rescue team was dispatched immediately and found her approximately an hour later. The area she was in was approximately four miles from the Visitor Center in Craggy Gardens. The area is known to locals as Potato Fields Gap, according to WGNTV, and the area is frequented for hiking and nature activities. The park is part of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Although the woman has not been identified, a woman who was identified as the victim’s caretaker said that the female was able to send texts to her after being tied to a tree by a male assailant. The caretaker was unsure what the problem was and reported it to 911 dispatchers as an unknown emergency. In the recording, the caller describes the victim’s state of health.
“She has something that looks like seizures, and when she does, she is conscious long enough sometimes to send a text but generally it renders her somewhat mute.”
A firefighter found the woman tied to a tree approximately an hour later. Reports said she was “injured” but did not report what her injuries were or the severity of the injuries. She was taken to Mission Hospital for diagnosis and treatment. At the time of her discovery, the fire personnel radioed to others that the victim was alive.
“She’s not deceased at this time. She is tied to a tree. This is the one they were looking for.”
A description of the woman had been sent out immediately to search and rescuers workers at the time of her reported disappearance. National Park Service investigators have released a description of a “possible suspect” in the case, according to KTLA 5. The man is described as approximately 50-years-old, white, and having “salt and pepper hair,” wearing a gray t-shirt, old baggy blue pants, and dark tennis shoes. He was also described as having a foul odor, possibly from not bathing for several days.
Asheville North Carolina Police are searching for answers in the disappearance and assault of the female. Some radio reports at the time indicated she was “barely alive” at the time of her discovery, but the nature of her injuries or any possible motive is still unknown. The kidnapping of elderly people is a very unusual occurrence in the United States, particularly for reasons other than ransom. There have been very few other details that police will give other than they believe this to be an isolated incident and not part of serial or crime spree.
There have been several other instances of crimes against older female hikers in North Carolina, including the infamous Judy Smith case, a wife, mother, and nurse who went missing and her skeletal remains were found in 1997. There was also a case in North Carolina of a female skeleton found tied to a tree, who had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death. In that instance, forensic science estimated her age to be 40 – 55 years of age due to arthritis evident in a skeletal knee. As of yet, those cases are not known to be tied to the most recent crime.
[photo by Larry W. Smith/Stringer/Getty Images]