UNSOLVED: Man goes missing in Wilmington, body found in Town Creek
BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — After more than 20 years, a mother is still searching for answers as detectives continue searching for the person who killed her son.
Bryan Smith went missing on April 29, 1994. His body was found 10 days later.
Lou Smith said her son Bryan was living in an apartment in Wilmington with his twin brother at the time.
“They were so close,” Smith said. “I could not tell one from the other when they would call me and they loved to play tricks on me.”
Smith said Marion and Bryan shared more than just similar features. They had a bond that was more like a sixth sense.
“One could think like the other,” Smith said. “I remember one time, Bryan was working in Salisbury, North Carolina and he came home for Christmas and he and his brother had on the same shirt, not knowing and I went, ‘This is unreal.'”
On April 30, 1994, Smith said Marion called her with a weird feeling.
“He said, ‘Mom. I feel like Bryan didn’t come home last night. I feel like something is wrong,'” Smith said.
Captain Phil Perry with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office said Bryan was out in downtown Wilmington the night before with friends.
“They went to a place down on Front Street called the Ice House,” Perry said.
Perry said Bryan met up with some other friends there.
“As well as some British soldiers that were on a naval ship from Britain visiting Wilmington at the time,” Perry said.
He said the group eventually left the Ice House.
“One of the girls that was with him there wanted to go dancing,” Perry said.
Perry said on the way to go dancing, the group stopped at Barbary Coast.
“The girl and her friends went in that particular bar leaving Bryan standing out front talking,” Perry said.
Perry said when the others came back out of the bar, Bryan was gone.
“Bryan was gone as well as the sailors,” Perry said.
Perry said Bryan’s friends never found him. Smith said Bryan never came home and never called to check in.
“I said, ‘This is not like him,'” Smith said. “He always called. I mean, we had a rule. If you aren’t coming home, you call.”
Ten days later, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office got a phone call.
“On May 8th, 1994, there were two fisherman in Town Creek here in Brunswick County found a body floating,” Perry said. “He was later identified as Bryan Keith Smith.”
Perry said an autopsy was later done.
“He died as a result of his throat being cut,” Perry said.
Smith got the news from Bryan’s twin.
“He was standing on the steps and he said, ‘Mom, someone killed my brother.’ And I collapsed and it has been a nightmare,” Smith said.
She said it was news Bryan’s twin brother knew all along.
“He knew,” Smith said. “I don’t know what it’s like to be a twin, but I’ve read up on it and when one passes, the other, I mean a part of your heart is taken.”
Smith started looking for answers going to the sheriff’s office weekly for years.
“I met a very dear friend through all of this, Birdie Frink, and she and I started a support group and no one could have ever told me that their pain was as great as mine, but yes it is,” Smith said.
In the meantime, Detectives got several leads and even took the investigation over seas.
“We sent an officer to London and talked with these seamen who were on the British ship that was in Wilmington at the time,” Smith said.
Now, 23 years later, detectives are still looking for a suspect.
“We know that we have a lot of information,” Perry said.
Perry said they just need a little more.
“Any information that anyone could come forward with,” Perry said.
But no matter how much time passes, Smith will continue looking for answers.
“I know I’ll see him again one day, but that doesn’t take away from the pain,” Smith said. “I mean you become a totally different person when you lose a child, especially an unanswered murder.”
Through the pain though, she still has hope.
“I have faith,” Smith said. “I may not live to see it, but God is their judge.”
She has faith that one day Bryan’s murder will no longer be unsolved.
If you have any information, please contact the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.