Large-scale search for missing Winston-Salem woman comes up empty

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A search for a missing Winston-Salem woman who would have celebrated her 63rd birthday exactly a month ago came up empty on Monday.

Mary Magdalene Smith was last seen by family on March 1, 2017, at her sister’s house. The last conversation her family had with her ended in an argument.

“So she got angry about it and left and said she was going to the Motel 6, which now is Rodeway Inn,” said Smith’s niece, Faye Hairston.

Days turned into weeks, then nearly two months before the family reported Smith missing to police.

“After two weeks we started worrying and then her checks was coming and she didn’t go get her money so we knew something was wrong,” Hairston added.

Winston-Salem police asked the public for help finding Smith, but it was a lead her niece discovered which prompted a large-scale search of an eight-acre vacant lot near the intersection of North Patterson Avenue and Germanton Road.

“It’s a glimmer of hope that they may find something up there,” Hairston said.

Last week, Hairston tells FOX8 that she and her mother – Smith’s sister – were driving on North Patterson Avenue when she noticed a smell.

“I said, ‘Mama, we need to go back up in there and look,’ and she said, ‘Well we can’t because it’s getting dark, but we’ll come back tomorrow,’ and we did come back, and I walked up by myself, and was looking, and I walked to that third pile and I [saw] the bookbag sticking out the top of the pile,” Hairston said.

The family reported the backpack, which they believe belongs to Smith, to police. Officers say they immediately investigated the area, but then regrouped and formed the large search party which scoured the area on Monday. Heavy equipment and a dog were brought in to assist the roughly 50 officers.

However, after hours of searching, no evidence of Smith was found, police said Monday afternoon.

“I think somebody robbed her and killed her and [threw] her out somewhere,” Hairston said, adding that much of her family shares the same belief.

Police say they have not found any evidence that harm has been done to Smith.