Lelia Lewis Bryan

Lelia, circa 1941

  • Missing Since 05/10/1941
  • Missing From Carolina Beach, North Carolina
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 08/06/1904 (119)
  • Age 36 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'7 - 5'8, 120 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A summer print housedress, brown and white shoes, a green turban, possibly a sweater, and no stockings or jewelry.
  • Associated Vehicle(s) Black 1935 Ford Model A coupe with the 1941 North Carolina license plate number 219-056 and the engine number 18-1833996
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Black hair, gray eyes. Some accounts spell Lelia's name "Lela." She has a small scar on her neck under her chin.

Details of Disappearance

Lelia and her only child, Mary Rachel, were last seen in their hometown of Carolina Beach, Carolina on May 10, 1941. Lelia took Mary Rachel and left home at 9:00 p.m.

Some accounts say she was going out to buy groceries at a store two blocks away; another story says she took $2 and was going to buy a new brassiere at the dime store. She was driving her husband's black 1935 Ford Model A coupe. It had the 1941 North Carolina license plate number 219-056 and the engine number 18-1833996.

Lelia and Mary Rachel have never been heard from again. Their vehicle was apparently never recovered. Authorities investigated the theory that Lelia murdered her daughter and took her own life, but there was no evidence to support this. Lelia and Mary Rachel were declared legally dead in 1948.

Lelia's husband, Edis Clarence "E.C." Bryan, is the prime suspect in his wife and daughter's disappearances. He died in 1976 and was never charged in their cases. It was theorized that E.C. buried Lelia and Mary Rachel's bodies beneath the concrete foundation of his beach cottage on Raleigh Avenue.

In early 2009, investigators cut away concrete from the basement floor and dug underneath in search of human remains, but nothing of interest was found and the house has been ruled out as a burial site. Mary Rachel and Lelia's disappearances remain unsolved.

Investigating Agency

  • North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation 910-486-1262

Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 22, 2023; picture added, distinguishing characteristics and vehicle information updated.