Authorities and family members of a missing Gaston County woman are waiting for a state medical examiners office report for word on whether the body found in a car Monday in a rugged McDowell County ravine was that of Elizabeth Stonger.
However, police say they suspect the woman found in the car was Stonger, a 27-year-old Lowell mother who had been missing since Oct. 14.
The woman found in the 1998 Chevrolet Lumina was wearing the same clothes that Stonger was described as wearing when she disappeared after leaving her job in Belmont during a lunch break. N.C. Highway Patrol troopers say the license tags and vehicle identification number on the vehicle match that of the car Stonger was driving.
Belmont Police Chief Charlie Franklin told the Observer that authorities have not made a positive identification of the body but are pretty sure it is that of Stonger, who lived in Lowell and had a 2-year-old son.
Investigators have a lot of other unanswered questions, including how Stonger died and what took her to a remote part of McDowell County about 80 miles from where she was last seen alive.
The car was found about 400 feet off Spooky Hollow Road and down a 100-foot embankment.
N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Eddie Hobson estimated Stongers speed at the time of the wreck at about 35 mph. Investigators found what Hobson called a faint skid mark about 3 feet long. Inside the vehicle, they found Stongers ID and a journal of about four or five pages.
Of the journal, Hobson said: There was no date. We dont know the time frame. He declined to reveal the contents of the journal.
Investigators searched the car for any receipts that might have shed light on Stongers whereabouts prior to the wreck but didnt find anything.
Hobson said that because of the low speed the car was traveling, the distance covered, and the low-impact overturn of the car, its unlikely the wreck itself caused the drivers death. But he said a lot is depending on the autopsy and toxicology report.
Sgt. Kevin Owens of the N.C. Highway Patrol said the body in the car was strapped in a seat belt. He said numerous prescription medications were found inside the vehicle.
Owens said authorities dont suspect foul play and for now are treating the wreck as an accident.
Stonger was last seen about 1:15 p.m. Oct. 14, when she left her job as a cashier at a Walmart store in Belmont. She drove away alone, waving to people she knew. She was driving a burgundy 1998 Chevrolet Lumina with N.C. license plate ABC 6609.
Police say her cellphone was last used that evening, near I-40 and U.S. 221 in McDowell County.