Lincoln County Sheriff's detectives recovered the body of a missing Lincoln County woman Thursday evening. Mary Walters Cook, 59, of Hamlet Street in Lincolnton had been killed and her body tossed off a bridge on Boy Scout Road.
Steve Allen Avery, 60, became a suspect after Cook’s cell phone was pinged to his residence at 2242 Drive Inn Road in Lincolnton. He was also known to have been involved in a relationship with Cook, who is married to another man but separated.
Thursday night detectives executed a search warrant at the residence and during the search, blood stains were found in the home. Avery was then brought into the Sheriff’s Office at approximately 6 p.m. on Thursday for questioning. He continued to deny involvement for several hours before confessing to shooting Cook with a .22 caliber rifle and leading deputies to where he had dumped her body off a bridge on Boy Scout Road in Lincolnton.
Avery has been charged with first degree murder and appeared in court for the first time on Friday, Sept. 27. He is being held in the Harven A. Crouse Detention Center without bond.
Cook was reported missing on Wednesday, Sep. 25 by her family who had not seen her since Sept. 23. Cook's vehicle was located by sheriff deputies on Wednesday at Johnny's Mexican Restaurant on West Highway 150. Security footage obtained from the business showed an individual, that detectives originally thought was Cook, exiting the vehicle and walking toward West Highway 150 in the early morning hours Wednesday. Avery allegedly drove the truck back to Johnny's and parked it behind the business. His residence is approximately 7/10ths of a mile from the restaurant.
During their initial investigations when Cook went missing, Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam said that he was concerned for her safety.
“We knew where she had been at a certain time,” he said. “We had a lot of people giving us information, some good and some bad saying that she may be in danger. As we got into the case more and more, we found out that she was fine at around 12:22 in the morning (which was when she allegedly sent an SOS text message to her husband) and a little over an hour later someone parked her car at Johnny's. We’re trying to gather more video surveillance from the area.”
On Friday, while Sheriff’s deputies were processing the crime scene at the home of the suspect, they discovered a device that they believed to be a bomb.
“We called the Gaston County bomb crew to remove the device and take care of it for us,” Beam said. “I’m certainly glad for our partnership with them to handle those things. We also found a safe at the home and have drawn more paperwork to get into that safe so that we can make due diligence on all of the things we found at the crime scene. I’m glad we’ve got all the loose ends tied up and we’re still not out looking for her. Her family has some closure and we have a murderer in jail.”
Avery’s next court date is Oct. 15.