• 70°

Animal attack investigation is worth a second look

For the past four months, the question of what type of animal was responsible for the death of Pantego resident Brenda Hamilton has weighed heavily on the minds of many people in Beaufort County. From Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigators and local elected officials to the general public and the people who live and work in Pantego, there are demands for answers that may be difficult to provide.

Since last month, county officials have reached out to a variety of people who might be able to help provide those answers — from the Western Carolina University scientists who conducted the initial tests on physical evidence recovered after the attack to officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

This week, the topic came up again during a meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners. One commissioner, Hood Richardson, suggested that the county hire a DNA expert to take a second look at the evidence retrieved from the scene. The board, overall, voted 3-3 to on the issue. Three thought it best to hear more from the parties above before taking action.

Next month, some of those people will speak to commissioners and answer questions in a public forum. Maureen Hickman, with Western Carolina University, and Pete Benjamin, the North Carolina field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have both committed to sharing their perspectives with commissioners.

From the public, a petition drafted by the Hamilton family, and posted by one of Hamilton’s former student, is circulating on the website Change.org. With nearly 3,000 signatures, the petition seeks public meetings during which citizens can voice concerns and ask questions of agencies involved in the investigation. Above all, the petition seeks answers as to the details of the investigation, public safety concerns and the next steps authorities should take.

In inviting representatives of these agencies to address questions publicly, local officials are showing that they are not prepared to let these lingering questions remain unanswered. After that meeting, commissioners may still consider hiring a DNA expert to take a second look at the evidence.

Everyone wants answers. The family and friends of Brenda Hamilton deserve answers. Anything our local officials can do to try and obtain those answers is worth the time, money and effort involved.