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Two arrested for concealing death of Burke County man found in well

The man found is identified after 56-year-old Howell Buchanan Jr.
Dwayne Smith (left_ and Donna Hagy (right) were arrested for concealment of death
Dwayne Smith (left_ and Donna Hagy (right) were arrested for concealment of death(Burke County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 3:08 PM EDT
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MORGANTON, N.C. (WBTV) - Two people have been arrested after a body of a man was found buried inside a well in Connelly Springs, N.C., according to the Burke County Sheriff’s Office.

The man found is identified after 56-year-old Howell Thomas Buchanan Jr., who investigators asked for information of his whereabouts on August 12, saying he hadn’t been seen in quite some time.

On Sept. 30, investigators had several interviews that led them to 4946 Old NC 18 in Connelly Springs, where they found a relatively fresh dig site with heavy equipment on an old powerline right-of-way.

Following information obtained for interviews and searches, an excavation of the site took place on Oct. 18 by Burke investigators and the NCSBI. A well was located under the fresh dirt and Buchanan’s body was found approximately 15 feet deep within the well.

“You do still have empathy for the family and thinking that somebody was put into a well and left. It’s sad for the family,” said Sheriff Steve Whisenant.

Howell Thomas Buchanan was found dead inside a well in Burke County
Howell Thomas Buchanan was found dead inside a well in Burke County(Burke County Sheriff's Office)

On Wednesday, Buchanan’s ex-girlfriend, 46-year-old Donna Hagy was arrested for concealment of death. That same day, 41-year-old Dwayne Smith was also arrested for the same charge. Hagy was issued a $50,000 bond and Smith received a $75,000 bond.

Detectives found that the person who killed Buchanan died days after killing him. Investigators believe Buchanan was killed with blunt force trauma and strangulation. He is believed to have been dead prior to being put into the well. Detectives believe there was some kind of argument between the suspect and victim.

“The information we have is that there was an altercation between the suspect and the victim. We don’t believe the person was alive when he was put into the well,” said Sheriff Steve Whisenant.

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