08/05/11 — Two charged in woman's death

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Two charged in woman's death

By Gary Popp
Published in News on August 5, 2011 1:46 PM

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Gary Metzger is led out of the Goldsboro Police Department Thursday after questioning in connection with the death of 66-year-old Jean Hubbard.

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Ann Metzger is led out of the Goldsboro Police Department Thursday after questioning in connection with the death of 66-year-old Jean Hubbard.

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Jean Hubbard

The search for a 66-year-old woman missing since last Friday turned into a homicide investigation Thursday after Goldsboro police discovered her body and arrested two people in connection with her death.

Shortly after the remains of Jean Metzger Hubbard were found hidden under debris in a wooded area behind Country View mobile home park, a nearly six-hour manhunt for the people police believed were responsible for her death ensued.

Ms. Hubbard's brother, Gary Metzger, 54, and his wife, Ann, 34, have each been charged with an open count of murder for the death of the Goldsboro News-Argus employee who was reported missing six days ago after she failed to show up for work.

But long before the woman's body was discovered in a lot located a half-mile behind the couple's home on Country View Drive, the husband and wife seemed, police said, to be helping to find her. The Metzgers had cooperated with investigators earlier in the week by providing information to help authorities locate their missing relative.

But as the investigation began to unfold, police said, details about Ms. Hubbard's relationships with the couple raised questions. She had taken out a court-issued protective order against her sister-in-law earlier this year.

And when police received a phone call from an unidentified source Thursday morning, the tip provided new information that identified the Metzgers as possible suspects and prompted investigators to focus their search around the couple's home.

"We received a phone call from an individual who had overheard something, and they felt like they needed to come forward," said Sgt. Paige Learnard of the Goldsboro police.

About 10 a.m. Thursday, police began their search around Country View mobile home park using ground units and a helicopter.

When the Metzgers saw the police presence and hovering helicopter, they began to walk away from their home, Ms. Learnard said.

Authorities noticed the Metzgers moving and kept loose surveillance on the husband and wife as the pair walked across U.S. 70 toward Wilber's Barbecue restaurant.

About 11:30 a.m., the police found Ms. Hubbard's remains concealed in material so the body was not in full view and hidden under wooded debris, Ms. Learnard said.

The discovery of the remains immediately elevated the status of the Metzgers to prime suspects. Around this time, authorities lost their visual on the Metzgers who had entered the wooded area behind Wilber's.

"It was something that had happened very quickly," Ms. Learnard said of losing sight of the couple. "In a split second they were able to jut down one of about a million paths."

Over the next several hours, the police were assisted by the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, which provided K-9 units used to flank the wooded area to contain the suspects and the helicopter, Air Watch, which stayed in the air for the duration of the search.

The Metzgers would not be taken into custody until around 4 p.m. after they were found less than one-half mile behind Wilber's, police said.

Ms. Learnard stressed the location of the remains and the apprehension of the Metzgers was a team effort that included units from the police department, Sheriff's Office and the SBI.

"Today is an awesome day to show how well things can work when different departments work together. I don't think we would have had the success we did today without all the departments working together," she said. "The Sheriff's Office has a tremendous amount of resources that really helped expedite things for us today."

Ms. Hubbard's remains were scheduled to be received by the Medical Examiner's Office in Chapel Hill today.

The Metzgers were scheduled for a first appearance this morning in Wayne County District Court.

Ms. Learnard said those involved in the investigation hoped to locate Ms. Hubbard safe and healthy, but they are glad to provide the family with some peace of mind.

"In my 11 years of investigation, I have had several unsolved missing persons that start out like this, and it is absolutely heart-wrenching because the family still calls on holidays and birthdays, and we totally understand because people want their loved ones found," Ms. Learnard said. "To provide some closure to the family is just tremendous."

News-Argus publisher Hal Tanner III said the newspaper's staff members are mourning the loss of their co-worker.

"This is a tragedy that has deeply saddened our News-Argus family," Tanner said. "Jean was loved by everyone who worked with her. She always met you with a smile and was just such a kind person.

"She will be remembered as the wonderful person she was. We will miss her greatly."