Angela Hamby left her Wilkesboro, North Carolina home at 9:30 am on Friday, October 29, 1982, to run a few errands. The 20-year-old had taken the day off from work and had several errands to run. She planned to fill up her gas tank, take a deposit to a local bank for her mother, and then pay her car payment before returning home so she and her mother could go shopping in Elkin, North Carolina. She never picked her mother up, however, and she was never seen again.
When Angela failed to return home, her mother, Shirley, wasn’t initially worried. She knew Angela planned to stop by her sister’s house to see if she wanted to come along on their shopping trip; at first, she thought Angela and her sister, Cheryl, had simply started talking and lost track of time. Around noon, Shirley called Cheryl and was disturbed to find out that Angela had never arrived at her home, which was located near the bank. Concerned, Shirley called the bank next and learned that Angela hadn’t been there yet.
Shirley drove to the bank in downtown Wilkesboro and looked around to see if she could spot Angela’s silver Mazda. Hoping that Angela had met up with some friends, her mother decided to wait a few more hours to see if she showed up. Angela’s father, Jerry, was on a hunting trip in South Carolina at the time and Shirley didn’t want to worry him over nothing, but by 5:00 pm she was concerned enough that she called Jerry and then called the Wilkesboro Police Department to report Angela missing.
Around 1:00 am Saturday, a Wilkesboro police officer found Angela’s car. It had been parked behind a dumpster in a small parking lot between the ABC store and Glenn’s Tastee Freeze at the intersection of Main Street and Curtis Bridge Road. The car had a full tank of gas, indicating that Angela had made it to the gas station when she left her house. The driver’s side door had been left unlocked, something that Angela never did. Her purse, wallet, and identification were found inside her car, but the money she had been carrying to take to the bank was missing.
A witness told detectives he had seen the car pull into the parking lot around 11:30 am Friday; he thought there had been a white male behind the wheel. Other witnesses claimed to have seen Angela driving her car in the area that morning, so it’s unclear exactly who was driving the car when it was abandoned. One person thought they saw her shopping in a clothing store; they claimed she was looking around nervously, as if she were trying to avoid someone.
A cook who worked at the Tastee Freeze told investigators that she had seen Angela in the parking lot Friday morning; she had been speaking with a blond man whom the cook didn’t recognize. She described the man as being “sort of rough looking” and wasn’t sure if Angela knew him, but the two appeared to be talking and there were no signs of tension.
Police searched the downtown area but didn’t find any sign of Angela. Her friends and family were adamant that she wouldn’t have voluntarily disappeared; she had a strong relationship with her parents and enjoyed her job as a data processor for a bank. She was taking classes at Wilkes Community College and wanted to transfer to Appalachian State University to complete her degree.
Angela had been dating a young man from Valdese, North Carolina, a small town about an hour away from Wilkesboro. She was supposed to meet him the next day for a planned trip to Cherokee, North Carolina; she had been excited about the trip and her father didn’t think she would have willingly missed it. “If she left on her own, it was a total reversal of character.”
Jerry and Shirley spent the two days following their daughter’s disappearance staring at the phone, praying it would ring with good news. As days went by without any word from Angela, they started taking long drives, searching up and down secluded country roads, looking for any place someone might have taken their daughter.
Soon, Wilkesboro was covered in Angela’s missing person poster, and it was impossible to go anywhere downtown without seeing her picture. Although everyone in Wilkesboro was soon aware of the fact she was missing, none of them were able to offer any clues about where she might have gone. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was brought in to assist the Wilkesboro detectives, but they weren’t able to uncover any new leads.
Investigators wanted to identify the blond man seen driving Angela’s car; they developed a composite sketch of the man based on the description provided by the Tastee Freeze cook. Angela’s parents couldn’t think of anyone their daughter knew who matched the description; they feared she had been abducted by a stranger.
Wilkesboro Police Sgt. Gary Parsons agreed that foul play was a possibility; since all of Angela’s personal belongings had been left in her car, he thought she had likely been taken against her will. Her car was being processed by the state crime lab, but they hadn’t found anything to indicate a struggle had taken place inside or around the vehicle. Despite the lack of evidence, those who knew Angela were convinced she never would have voluntarily left her car behind; she was still making payments on it and it was her prized possession.
As the search for Angela reached the two-week mark, her parents worried that they might never see her again. Shirley noted, “We’ve checked with friends of hers…we’ve checked everywhere. It is getting long, too long.” There had been no confirmed sightings of Angela since the day she went missing, and everyone who knew her was growing increasingly concerned for her safety.
On November 17, 1982, Angela’s parents announced that they were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to their daughter’s whereabouts. On the same day, Governor James Hunt’s office announced that they were offering a $5,000 reward in the case. Detectives admitted that they had exhausted all available leads; they were hopeful that the reward money would entice someone with information to come forward and speak with them.
Investigators were still trying to find the blond man who had been seen with Angela the morning she disappeared, but no one seemed to know who he was. Angela’s family found it hard to believe that she would have voluntarily let him drive her car; she didn’t like anyone to borrow her car and would only rarely allow family members to use it.
In February 1983, detectives stated that there was a possibility Angela’s disappearance was connected to a series of assaults against women that had taken place at hospitals in several North Carolina counties. Four women reported being assaulted by a suspect whose description was similar to that of the man seen driving Angela’s car. One woman was abducted and raped, another was beaten by the man but managed to escape from his car, and two others were able to get away without injury. The suspect managed to evade authorities each time.
In March 1983, Jerry and Shirley Hamby filed to obtain control of their daughter’s finances so they could pay her bills and take care of other financial matters until she was found. A lawyer working for them noted, “It’s just a way of getting legal representatives to manage Angela’s financial affairs until she shows up.” The order was granted.
In April 1983, Shirley visited the parking lot where her daughter was last seen, still trying to comprehend how she could have vanished. “This sort of thing is supposed to happen at night. We’re supposed to be afraid of the dark. But this happened in broad daylight, in a busy place with people all around. It doesn’t make sense.”
Shirley told reporters that her daughter had never been the adventurous type. She didn’t suffer from wanderlust and had never yearned for independence. She was happiest at home with her parents or spending time with her boyfriend. “She called me every day. We worked different hours, but she always told me when she was leaving the house and when she got home. We were very close.”
Everyone who knew Angela said she wasn’t the type of person who would strike up a conversation with a stranger. Shirley noted, “Angie was real nervous. I know she never would have picked up a stranger. Somebody would have had to grab her.” Although she was convinced her daughter had been abducted, Shirley was optimistic that she was still alive. “I’m sure Angela is not dead…I’ve dreamed of her, and they’re always good dreams. I’ve never seen her dead in my dreams.”
By April, the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office had taken over the investigation. They hadn’t made much progress, although they didn’t believe that Angela had left voluntarily. Sheriff Kyle Gentry said that investigators had been frustrated by the lack of leads in the case. “It is really baffling. We sure wish something would turn up.”
As the first anniversary of Angela’s disappearance approached, detectives were still struggling to determine what had happened to her. Stephen Cabe, a detective with the State Bureau of Investigation, admitted, “It is a very puzzling case. There have been more man-hours spent on this case than any similar investigation that I know of, and still there is nothing.”
Angela’s family and friends continued to pray for her on a regular basis and constantly called the Wilkesboro Police Department for updates about the case. Officer Judy Gaylor said they never had anything new to report to Angela’s loved ones. “I wish there was something we could tell them. It’s still an open case, but we’ve reached a stumbling block and about all we can do is hope for a new lead.”
Years went by without any solid leads and Angela remained missing. In April 1987, Wilkesboro Police Chief Gary Parsons told reporters that detectives had followed hundreds of leads but were no closer to determining what had happened to the missing woman. They had recently interviewed two men who were charged with murder in South Carolina, but Chief Parsons said they had been unable to connect the men to Angela’s disappearance. When conducting a search of one man’s home, investigators had found a clipping about Angela’s disappearance, but he had been in jail at the time of her disappearance and there was no other evidence to link either man to Angela.
Angela’s family had hoped that the two men, Michael Ryan Torrence and Thomas John Torrence would be able to provide them with information about her fate and weren’t sure how to take the news that they weren’t involved. Jerry admitted, “I guess I was relieved. Apparently those guys are sort of rough customers. But I get to the point where I’d just like to know something, even if it was bad.”
Unfortunately, Angela’s case soon went cold. Detectives continued to look through the case file on a regular basis, hoping to find something that had been missed during the initial investigation, but they were unable to come up with any solid leads. The evidence collected from in and around Angela’s Mazda — which included a plastic raincoat, cigarette butts, Angela’s purse, and pieces of paper — were reevaluated several times, but they failed to lead police to the person responsible for Angela’s disappearance. As of June 2023, her fate remains a mystery.
Angela Gray Hamby was just 20 years old when she vanished from Wilkesboro, North Carolina in October 1982. She was a shy young woman who preferred to stick close to home, and investigators believe she was abducted and likely murdered. Angela has blue eyes and blonde hair, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 105 pounds. She was last seen wearing blue jeans, a cream-colored V-neck sweater, an orchid-colored sweater, socks, and sandals. She also had on a sapphire and diamond ring and a gold bead necklace. If you have any information about Angela, please contact the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office at 336–838–9111 or the Wilkesboro Police Department at 336–667–7277.