NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Detectives from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office are trying to figure out what happened to a woman who went missing in 1995.
In October 1995, Julia Rodriguez was reported missing in Brunswick County. Her Car was found burned a week later in New Hanover County.
“She was very petite,” Mary Doncourt said. “She was only about 4’8″. She weighed about 125 pounds.”
Julia Rodriguez did not stand very tall, but she was known to stand her ground.
“She was described as somebody who would not take disrespect from anybody without letting them know,” Detective Nicholas Lee said. “She stood up for herself and her daughter.”
Mary Doncourt, a Civilian investigative specialist with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, said in 1995, Rodriguez lived in a trailer park on Old Mill Road near Navassa with a 12 year old she took in at a young age.
“She had been in Brunswick County for about six or seven years,” Doncourt said.
Doncourt said, on Oct. 28, 1995, Rodriguez and the 12-year-old were at home.
“She told the 12-year-old that she was going to the store, would be back shortly,” Doncourt said.
“She went to the Food Lion in Leland to get lettuce and tomatoes,” Lee said.
“And was never seen again,” Doncourt said.
As the Brunswick County Sheriff’s office began an extensive search looking for Rodriguez, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s office got a call.
“On Nov. 3, Julia’s vehicle was found burned in a wooded area in the Castle Hayne area off Blue Clay Road,” Lee said.
Detective Nicholas Lee with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said a hunter found Julia’s green 1980 Datsun Hatchback.
“The vehicle was burned extensively,” Lee said. “There were no remains found in the vehicle.”
Lee says Julia’s disappearance turned into a murder investigation.
“Throughout the course of the investigation there have been several people of interest identified, suspects were developed early on, but no arrests have ever been made,” Lee said.
Lee said Rodriguez’s car was vandalized several times within a year of her disappearance.
“Somebody, we don’t know who, appeared to have it out for Julia,” Lee said. “Her tires were slashed. Sugar was put in her fuel tank. At one point, the brake lines were cut which almost caused her and her daughter to get in a wreck when driving down the road.”
Lee said whatever happened to Rodriguez was not random.
“We think it’s a personal attack towards Julia, but we haven’t been able to make an arrest.”
He said they have not stopped searching. In April 2019, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Brunswick County Search and Rescue team went to an area in Castle Hayne and conducted a search. Lee said they used heavy equipment, dogs and dozens of people.
“We were not able to find Julia’s remains,” Lee said.
Now, they need your help.
“If anybody has any information on Julia or knows anything about may have happened to her, has heard rumors throughout the years, we’d like to know any of that. Anything, how minute you may think it is would be very beneficial to this investigation,” Lee said.
They need anything that could help bring justice for Julia and closure for her daughter.
“What’s it been like for her?” Difficult. She was only a child. She has children of her own now, so she said she understands what being a mom is far more than she did when she was 12,” Doncourt said.
That is why detectives from both agencies will continue standing up for the mother who can no longer stand her ground.
“This was the mother of a young girl and we fight for the victim, so we want to find Julia and bring a resolution to this case,” Lee said.
If you have any information, please contact the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.