KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The search for a missing Independence woman is over as police believe they have found the remains of 44-year-old Ebony Duncan.
Detectives with the Independence Police Department followed up on some tips and leads, which led them to a wooded area near E. 83rd Street and Hillcrest Road in Kansas City on Halloween.
That cross street features a gravel road which leads to a dead end. Homes, apartments, and even a funeral home surround it.
Detectives said cadaver dogs helped find the remains, which had features similar to those of Duncan.
“We’re looking at things like height, weight, eye color, hair color, scars, marks, and tattoos,” said Officer Jack Taylor, who serves as the public information officer for the Independence Police Department.
Meanwhile, Duncan’s ex-boyfriend, 41-year-old Charles smith-Howell, is in federal custody where he’s charged with illegally possessing ammunition. He’s pleaded ‘not guilty’ to that charge and remains in custody ahead of his January 8 trial date.
“For now, he’s still one of our suspects for sure,” Taylor added.
Ebony Duncan’s family reported her missing on September 7. The 44-year-old mother was last seen the previous day getting into a silver sedan as she left her job at Sunterra Springs, a senior living facility in Independence. Surveillance video captured an image of the car.
According to court documents, officials traced the silver sedan, which was missing but has since been found, back to Smith-Howell’s current girlfriend, 42-year-old Keaira Ransberg (Jenkins).
Police are considering her as a person of interest in the case.
“We feel like she might have some information that may be critical,” Taylor said.
However, Taylor said the department is concerned for Ransberg’s safety.
“She’s kind of disappeared. We haven’t been able to locate her,” he said.
Detectives said they just want to talk with Ransberg to see if she knows anything about Duncan’s case. If you see Keaira Ransberg or know where she is, call the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-8477. Remember: you can stay anonymous.
Independence Police are currently leading the investigation with assistance from the Kansas City Police Department.
Taylor said Duncan’s family was notified on November 1 about the remains found in the woods. However, he added that the medical examiner will have to make a positive I.D. before determining the remains belong to Duncan, “but all signs point us to believe it is Ebony.”
Meanwhile, police say Howell-Smith has remained unwilling to talk to detectives about Duncan’s disappearance.
Court documents from September revealed that “[Ebony] confided in a co-worker that a prior intimate partner or ex-boyfriend was threatening to kill her.” The same court documents show how investigators started connecting dots.
According to court documents, “[Ebony Duncan’s] daughter contacted Smith-Howell on Facebook and asked if he had any information about [Ebony Duncan].
The daughter relayed to law enforcement that Smith-Howell said, ‘I saw your mother last night,’ and ‘I’m sorry if something bad happened to her.’”
Soon after, Independence police issued a “stop order” for Smith-Howell on suspicion of kidnapping.
Authorities also found the license plate and title for that car inside Smith-Howell’s car; a discovery they made after a pursuit in Kansas City. That’s also when police found a loaded gun, according to court documents, leading to the federal ammunitions charge.
Court documents also say, “There was also a very large black trash bag in the rear of the vehicle that investigators briefly looked inside of to determine [Ebony Duncan] was not inside.”
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If you know anything about Ebony Duncan’s disappearance or death, contact the Independence Police Department at (816) 325-7300, or the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS to stay anonymous.