BEAUFORT COUNTY, NC (WITN) It's been one year since a 77-year-old teacher was killed and the cause of her death is still a mystery.
Brenda Hamilton was attacked by an animal on February 15 outside of Pantego, but we still don't know what kind of animal it was.
A committee worked for months trying to figure it out. They even sent evidence to labs to be tested.
Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson says it could have been anything from a cat to a red wolf. He also said, ""I just don't think that the sheriff properly staked the secured the scene to begin with."
We reached out to the sheriff's office for a response but have not heard back.
Richardson says the family deserves answers.
Ollie Allen, a neighbor of Hamilton's says, "So it's just a lot of unanswered questions and if it happened one time also we know that its very likely that its gonna happen again."
Hamilton was a teacher at Pungo Christian Academy.
Several months have passed since the death of 77-year-old Brenda Hamilton. Her cause of death remains a mystery but new evidence testing could help determine what kind of animal attacked and killed Hamilton.
"It ranges anywhere from a cat to a red wolf," says Beaufort County Commissioner, Hood Richardson. Hamilton was attacked by an unknown animal back in February and a committee is still working to figure out what animal caused her death.
Richardson says, "We need to do this work. We really need to know.
The community wants to know and a lot of other people want to know also. So, it's an important item from the standpoint of public safety."
Evidence from the scene of Hamilton's death has been sent to a lab for testing.
The committee says it is waiting on those results before deciding to send the evidence to the University of Florida for further testing.
"If an animal did this the question is, when will this animal attack again?" says Richardson.
Hamilton's cousin says she believes the animal responsible is a cougar because she saw one outside her home just weeks after the attack.
"I was just in awe and it just never looked at me, just a gaze, jet black with the longest tail you could ever imagine, unimaginable," says Hamilton's cousin, Ollie Allen.
Allen even took to Facebook to share the sighting.
"Neighbors have seen this and a lot of people have posted on my Facebook. They've seen them since the 60's and 70's.
Allen says Hamilton's death was a tragedy and she hopes for healing.
"The family needs closure, we all need closure, and we need to feel safer," says Allen.
One member of a committee formed to investigate the death of a teacher who was attacked by an unknown animal believes it may have been some type of large cat.
Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson told WITN following this morning's committee meeting that he thinks a large cat may have been responsible for the death of 77-year-old Brenda Hamilton.
Richardson says the committee continues to weigh all options including the animal being anything from a cat to a red wolf.
The original autopsy found DNA evidence of a canine at the scene.
Ollie Allen, Hamilton's cousin who also lives in the area, believes the animal is a cougar because she saw one outside her home just weeks after the attack.
"I was just in awe and it just never looked at me, just a gaze, jet black with the longest tail you could ever imagine, unimaginable," said Allen.
Richardson says the committee is waiting to see the results of new forensic testing from a company called Microtrace.
If those results don't provide a definitive answer as to what was behind the attack, the commissioner says that all 19 pieces of evidence will be sent to the University of Florida to be studied.
Hamilton was a teacher at Pungo Christian Academy and was attacked outside of Pantego back in February.
A committee focused on investigating the death of a teacher who was attacked by an unknown animal is set to meet Thursday.
A committee, created by Beaufort County Commissioners, will meet to talk about the investigation into the death of Brenda Hamilton.
Hamilton was a 77-year-old teacher at Pungo Christian Academy who suffered fatal injuries after being attacked by an unknown animal outside of Pantego back in February.
Deputies say she was found in a ditch submerged up to her shoulders in water.
During the last meeting, the committee said they have budgeted $3,500 for the investigation. They were planning to send evidence to another lab to get a second opinion.
A committee created by the Beaufort County commissioners met Wednesday to discuss an update on the progress of the investigation into the death of Brenda Hamilton.
Brenda Hamilton, 77, was a teacher who was who suffered fatal injuries as a result of an attack by an unknown animal on the night of Feb.15.
Hamilton was walking on Indian Run Road outside of Pantego. Deputies say Hamilton was found in a ditch submerged up to her shoulders in water.
For nearly two hours, the committee discussed how to move forward with the investigation into Hamilton's death.
Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson is adamant on determining what animal attacked Hamilton.
"What did this to this woman? That is the big question. It is unknown as to what attacked and killed this lady," Richardson said.
Outside of the committee and commissioners, the family of Hamilton, an expert brought in for advice on the investigation, the public, and representatives from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, were able to ask questions and clear up any concerns with the investigation.
Richardson said, "The questions that was answered, since there's not an authority to proceed with this kind of an investigation—the big thing that we decided is; we're proceeding on our own. And we decided what we're going to do."
The sheriff's office was asked whether or not they missed any evidence that could have been obtained during Hamilton's medical transport. They defended their investigation. Richardson believes it's unfair to raise those concerns
Richardson said, "When law enforcement arrives on the scene, the first thing they do is try to save the life. I agree with that. You don't know whether it's necessarily a criminal investigation all the time or whether it's something like this; which is really not defined anywhere. To second guess that not enough of the information was saved; I don't think is quite fair. Although, I think if we have another one of these incidents, there will be a lot more information saved as was in the past.
Richardson explained that they have budgeted $3,500 for the investigation and expects to need more.
"It looks like it might be as much as—my estimate is $10,000 or $12,000."
The commissioner concluded that his goal is to send the evidence to another lab to get a second opinion. They hope they can solve this case to prevent this animal from attacking again.
'We've delegated the sheriff's office, the county manager to get together, come back with some recommendations for the committee as to who we're going to proceed with," Richardson said. "Evidence has been collected that we can go forward with. That evidence is still on hand. It's still protected. It can still be used. And what we know is we would maybe like to do a deeper dive into the evidence that we have to see if we can produce an answer," Richardson said.
Richardson feels as though the meeting was successful and they are making progress. "The commissioner's doing everything they can to get to the bottom of this so that we can find an answer. It's true that we may not have an answer when it's over with, but we want the public to know that we're doing everything we can to get to an answer.'
The next meeting is scheduled for August 29th at 9 a.m.
Though representatives did speak at the meeting, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office declined to do an on-camera interview.