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Body from N.C. murder case found in Unicoi County

By Keeli Parkey

Working with the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office, members of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies found the body of a North Carolina woman in the Iron Mountain area of Limestone Cove in Unicoi County on Friday, March 24, Sheriff Mike Hensley told The Erwin Record.

According to Donald Street, Mitchell County sheriff, the body was believed to be that of 45-year-old Sarah Denise Riddle. Street said that on March 17, Cecil Scott Byrd, pled guilty in Mitchell County court for the 2015 murders of 49-year-old Lisa Ann Robbins and Riddle. Byrd was also sentenced on that day to serve two life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murders.

Street said between the dates of Sept. 28 and Oct. 22, 2015, Byrd was charged with first degree in the deaths of Riddle and Robbins. Street said Riddle’s death occurred on either Oct. 21 or Oct. 22, 2015. He described Riddle as an “acquaintance” of Byrd’s. Robbins lived with Byrd and her murder reportedly occurred between Sept. 28 and Oct. 4, 2015, according to Street.

“We first received a report that Robbins was missing,” Street said. “We were trying to locate her and we went and talked to him. He let us search the residence and we found some odd stuff going on, but we weren’t able to pin anything down. Then, just days later we get another report of another missing person. … As the investigation unfolded, it led directly to Byrd’s involvement. He did confess to both murders after he was taken into custody.”

The sheriff also said that during the initial investigation, Byrd told officers he had disposed of Riddle’s body at a local trash collection site.

“The body had been burnt and he said he disposed of it there in trash bags,” Street added.

Following the sentencing on March 17, Byrd was interviewed in the presence of his state-appointed attorneys by an agent with the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation and told officers where to find Riddle’s body in Unicoi County, Street said.

“We, at that time, wanted to interview him again,” Street added. “After receiving two life sentences we thought he would be truthful on anything he knew. In the end, he didn’t have much to lose. … During the re-interview, he said he had taken (Riddle’s) body and dumped the ashes and bones on top of Iron Mountain on the Tennessee side. And, he told officers where to locate it.”

Using what Byrd told them, law enforcement officials went to the location and found Riddle’s remains on March 24.

“Today, we recovered body parts and evidence consistent with what Byrd told Mitchell County officers on Iron Mountain,” Sheriff Mike Hensley said. “We combed the area and we found containers that matched the description of what he said he put the body in. We found them over an embankment.”

The remains will be sent for DNA testing to confirm the identification, Hensley also said.

Both Hensley and Street said the discovery of the body brings closure to Riddle’s family.

“We contacted the mother of Ms. Riddle today and informed her of our discovery,” Street said on Friday. “At least this brings closure for the sadness they are no doubt going through. It is so sad that a family had to go through something like this.”