NASHVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – A Nash County murder investigation of a mom’s death likely has only one culprit, according to the sheriff.
An autopsy Wednesday confirmed the identity of a body found Tuesday in Edgecombe County as Diana Alejandra Keel.
The 38-year-old worked as an emergency room nurse at a hospital in Wilson County, and her daughter contacted law enforcement Saturday after neither she nor co-workers had heard from her mother.
Workers from the North Carolina Department of Transportation discovered Keel’s body along Polks Hole Road in Tarboro. Deputies believe someone dumped her there Friday, which was the last day she was known to be alive.
“We’re not at the point of a specific person of interest at this moment, but we’re getting close,” Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said Thursday afternoon.
“Until we get to the final stages of it we won’t know (if there’s more than one person involved). It’s definitely possible, but maybe not probable.”
Investigators identified the missing woman’s husband, Lynn Keel, as a person of interest on Tuesday. Deputies questioned him when the missing person investigation began March 9, and again on March 12 after the recovery of the body.
Stone said earlier that day that Keel was staying at his parents’ home in Nashville. No one answered the door at the house either Wednesday or Thursday.
Two days worth of newspapers sat outside, and neighbors said they had not noticed anyone entering or leaving.
Investigators said Lynn Keel is not under any restrictions at this time.
“We’ve not got any tracking or anything of that nature, and he’s been very cooperative throughout all of this,” Stone said.
“Every time we’ve tried to get up with him, we’ve got up with him. We’ve been in communications with him.”
Diana and Lynn Keel met in Bogota, Colombia, about a year after his previous wife died at home. Investigators determined Bess Keel’s death was accidental. She died from a head injury after falling down the three concrete stairs in front of the house on Old County Home on January 1, 2006.
Neighbors and co-workers called Diana by her middle name, Alejandra, or Ali for short. She had a daughter from a previous relationship and a 10-year-old son with Lynn Keel.
The sheriff said he feels a responsibility to close this case as quickly as possible in order to provide justice for her family and friends, many of whom live in Colombia.
“We’ve got an 18-year-old that’s in school (in Wilmington), trying to further her life. We’ve got a 10-year-old citizen that’s my responsibility,” Stone said.
“I feel like he’s my kid, he’s 10 years old, and he hasn’t got a mama now. And we’re working to solve this thing as hard as we can.”
Additional deputies and officers from Moore County and Guilford County are assisting with the case, and Stone said some law enforcement agents from New York are also involved. He described one team of license and theft experts which arrived Thursday as “gurus of motor vehicles.”
The sheriff said some of the new investigators specialize in tires, transmissions, and other car parts. Diana Keel’s Dodge Durango was still at her home when she went missing. It was no longer at the house on Thursday, as a crime scene unit of at least a half-dozen inspectors examined the area where the SUV sat previously.
Stone described the community response since Keel’s disappearance as offering “overwhelming support” which includes clues.
“I feel very good about this,” the sheriff said. “I think we’re going to be able to put this together. It’s just going to take time.”
They are still in search of witnesses who saw suspicious activity in the area of Polks Hole Road near Tarboro, where Keel’s killer dumped her body. Investigators hope someone along NC 33 between Tarboro and Leggett or NC 97 between Leggett and Rocky Mount has surveillance video which might show vehicles on those roads from Friday.
They also want to know if anyone saw a dark blue Dodge Ram pickup truck in that area.