CRESCENT CITY, Calif. —
UPDATE: The Del Norte County Sheriff's Office (DNSO) says it has taken Edward Hughes into custody, following a deluge of tips from the community regarding the man's wherabouts. Deputies were aided by the Pelican Bay Crisis Response Team and California Highway Patrol in Crescent City.
"I'm incredibly impressed by the diligence demonstrated from our investigations unit while relentlessly maintaining focus on this case," Sheriff Apperson said.
On Saturday, a medical examination confirmed that a body found in the Hughes' erstwhile home had been positively identified as belonging to Emiley Hughes. Investigators judged her time of death to be in late December of 2018 — around the time when family and friends lost contact with her.
Edward Hughes has been booked into the Del Norte County Jail on one count of Murder, with bail set at $1 million. DNSO did not say how or when Edward became a suspect in his wife's disappearance and death, previously referring to him as a "primary person of interest" in the case.
(Updated 2/19/19 at 12 a.m.)
INITIAL REPORT: The case of a missing woman in Del Norte County has taken on new dimensions after the discovery of an as-yet unidentified body at her home. The Del Norte County Sheriff's Office (DNSO) is now seeking her estranged husband for questioning.
The grandmother of 31-year-old Emiley Hughes reported her missing on February 1 after saying that she had not heard from Hughes since around December 23.
DNSO said that they entered Hughes into the missing persons system and created a flyer at the time, sending it to other local agencies and distributing it on social media.
As the investigation began, DNSO said that they were contacted by Hughes' mother Rawnda, who corroborated the grandmother's account. But the next day, Rawnda called back and indicated that she had heard from Hughes, who was "alive and well."
"She said Emiley was with a boyfriend in Eureka, California and had no plans of coming home," DNSO said. "We also received additional information suggesting Emiley was voluntarily missing, but since the DNSO did not receive firsthand information from Emiley, we continued to consider her a missing person."
On February 11, investigators received an anonymous report indicating that Hughes might be dead at her last-known residence — but DNSO said the report "did not meet the legal standard to establish probably cause." After trying for days to legally get entry to Hughes home, investigators contacted her estranged husband — Edward Culver Hughes IV.
"We tried to locate Emiley’s estranged husband, Edward on several occasions. We were able to make contact with him by phone one time and he agreed to meet us at the residence, where we were waiting for him. Edward never showed and his phone was disconnected," DNSO said.
On February 14, a family member found Hughes' car. Then, the same family member went to Hughes' home in order to get the keys to the car, unlocking and entering the place. Quickly noticing "a suspicious odor," she called the authorities. Now with a warrant in hand, DNSO came to the house and found a body inside.
"At this time we are unable to identify the decedent and will not release information on this individual’s identity until we are 100% certain who he or she is," DNSO said. "Our initial observations indicate that the body has been deceased for several weeks but nothing will be definitive until a thorough autopsy can be completed."
DNSO said that they are not yet calling this a murder investigation, as they don't know what the cause of death was. However, Edward Hughes is now a "primary person of interest."
"The DNSO believes he had knowledge of the decedent inside his residence. We are asking for the public's’ assistance in locating him," the agency said.
If you have any knowledge of his whereabouts, please contact the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office by dialing 7074644191 ext 6, 911 or by contacting Investigator Gill at 7079517530.