Woman is missing; husband's body discovered Tuesday

Dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound
Jan. 09, 2013 @ 05:09 AM

FOREST CITY — The body of a 46-year-old Sandy Mush man was discovered Tuesday morning in a wooded area off Flat Rock and Rambling roads, off Chase High Road.

The man, identified as Ryan Heath Lovelace, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Rutherford County Sheriff Chris Francis said Tuesday afternoon. Lovelace was a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife, Deborah Russell Lovelace, 47, who was last seen either Friday or Saturday.

Francis said there are conflicting stories of the last time Mrs. Lovelace was last seen. "Some say it was Friday, some say they last saw her on Saturday. We don't know yet."

They lived on Greene Road, off Chase High Road.

Mrs. Lovelace was reported missing Monday afternoon by a friend.

Francis said an off-duty deputy, who is an acquaintenance of the family, received word from a friend of Lovelace at about 4 p.m. Monday, stating there was possibly foul play involved with the family.

"We started the investigation," Francis said.

Officers and detectives received information Mr. Lovelace may have been seen Monday night at a residence on Rambling Road and they started to concentrate their investigative efforts there. Officers also conducted a search warrant in the early hours of Tuesday morning of the couple's Greene Road home, he said.

At about 12:36 a.m. Tuesday, Francis said detectives heard a gunshot in the area of Rambling Road.

"It was too dense to go in on foot then, so we used flir unit (thermal imaging detection device) from our vehicles."

The North Carolina Sheriff's Highway Patrol helicopter arrived in the area Tuesday at about 9:30 a.m to assist with the search. Lovelace's body was located just before 12 p.m. in the wooded area.

Early Tuesday morning, Francis notified Rutherford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Janet Mason of the ongoing criminal investigation in the the Chase High School District.

"We wanted to make them aware we were in the area and that we had a helicopter flying. There was never any children in harm's way .. .she was taking extra precautions," Francis said.

"This situation is not related to our schools," Mason said in an email. "Law enforcement authorities did request the use of the Chase High football field to land a helicopter.  As a result, we have taken extra security measures at Chase High, Chase Middle, and Forrest Hunt Elementary. I have spoken with all three principals and Sheriff Francis.  All of our students are safe and the school day is proceeding normally in these schools," she wrote.

Shortly after the discovering Lovelace's body, the school security measures were lifted.

A child of the couple attends one of the schools, the sheriff said.

The sheriff's department, the NC Highway Patrol Air Unit and Cherokee County Sheriff Office Canine Unit are still seaching for Mrs. Lovelace.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff's department at 286-2911.