ELYRIA — The investigation into the disappearance and suspected murder of Tierra Bryant, a 19-year-old woman last seen in Middleburg Heights, brought police and federal agents to Elyria on Wednesday morning.
Shortly before 8 a.m., Middleburg Heights police, Elyria police and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Evidence Response Team began searching a dense, wooded area off Mussey Avenue and West River Road North. About 20 law enforcement officers and agents searched the area for hours, walking the tree line, into the thick brush and along nearby railroad tracks.
A canine unit joined law enforcement in the search at various points.
Bryant was last seen on March 30, 2015 with Rashad (also known as Rashan) Hunt. Police said Bryant sent a text to a friend wanting to get picked up from a Middleburg Heights motel, but when the friend arrived Bryant was gone.
Authorities arrested Hunt in Sacramento, California, Tuesday morning in connection with Bryant's disappearance. Hunt will face a murder charge following extradition back to Cuyahoga County, said FBI Spokeswoman Vicki Anderson.
Bryant’s body has not been found, but police had enough evidence to bring a murder charges against Hunt.
Anderson said the investigation led them to the area, but could not say if the search was for Bryant’s remains, a weapon or other evidence.
“We feel very strongly that this area needs to be covered. We will exhaust the area,” she said.
Within the first 20 minutes of the search, someone in the woods shouted out and multiple officers were seen walking deeper into the woods. The search was concluded for the day about 3 p.m.
“We concluded our search for today and nothing was found,” Anderson said. “The situation and investigation is ongoing.”
Anderson would not say how long Hunt, 39, with various known addresses in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties, has been the main person of interest in the case.
However, within days of Bryant’s disappearance, Elyria officers went to 247 Brunswick Drive because Middleburg Heights police were attempting to get a search warrant for a black Infiniti and wanted Elyria officers to keep an eye on the car.
About an hour after police arrived to watch the car, a black male, later identified as Hunt, left in the car with Elyria police following. Officers followed the vehicle from Brunswick Drive to Leo Bullocks Parkway and eventually onto West River Road.
Officers did a traffic stop at West River Road just south of Lake Avenue. Middleburg Heights police took the car and Elyria officers took Hunt back to Brunswick Drive.
Elyria connections and crimes
Hunt has a history with police in Elyria that goes back to the 1999 when he was accused of assaulting his child's mother and, in a separate incident, shot a man four times, a crime for which he ended up serving more than 10 years in prison.
“He stayed in Elyria for a few years before he went to prison from what we know,” Costantino said.
A review of police reports from that time paint a picture of Hunt’s interactions with police.
On Feb. 21, 1999, police went to a Foster Avenue apartment to meet with Hunt’s child’s mother, then just 17, who said Hunt, who was 20 at the time, knocked her down, pulled her shirt over her face and tried to stop her breathing. He was gone when police arrived and not arrested.
Police returned to the same apartment a month later. This time, Hunt supposedly took $500, according to police reports.
In August of that year, police arrested Hunt after he confessed to a July 26, 1999 shooting at an apartment on West River Road North. Hunt told police he went the apartment with a loaded 9mm handgun, shot Sierra Carey four times and stole a watch and $500, police said.
Carey, now 42, said Wednesday, that he didn’t know Hunt well before he was shot. He still has the scars from the bullets that entered him in his arm, stomach and chest.
Carey said he doesn’t hold any grudges against Hunt, but said the “dude is bad news,” when he heard of Hunt’s alleged crimes against Bryant.
“I look at it like this. I was all right and he was just another messed up black man,” he said. “I lived. I saw that as my blessing.”
Brian Charley, a longtime resident of the area police are searching, said he first noticed police on 15th/Mussey Avenue within the last couple of days. It was noticeable enough that he mentioned seeing the officers to his wife, speculating that something bad took hold of the area.
“I've lived here most of my life in this neighborhood, this house for nine years, but I grew up on 18th Street," he said. "It's not like that."
The neighborhood is a hodgepodge of woods, shuttered industrial facilities and small single-family homes.
“This is a busy street. There is always just a lot of traffic," Charley said.
Charley's wife, Marietta, said because of its location on the south side of town, the street often gets a bad rap.
“A lot of people think this is a bad area, but we don't have any problems," she said.
- Work begins to ID body found off Mussey Avenue
- Human remains unearthed at Mussey Avenue site in Elyria
- Remains found off Mussey Avenue identified as Tierra Bryant
- 8. The search for Tierra Bryant
- Three Elyria city employees recognized by FBI for activities in Bryant search
- UPDATE: Human remains found at Mussey Avenue investigation site
- Law enforcement looks for missing woman in Mussey Avenue area
- FBI again scours area off Mussey Avenue in Elyria
- Mussey Avenue remains closed until Wednesday as investigation continues
- Man indicted in woman's 2015 disappearence
- Mussey Avenue reopens today