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Ex-boyfriend questioned, named person of interest in Independence woman's disappearance

Ebony Duncan went missing Sept. 6, last seen getting into a silver car near her workplace
Ebony Duncan
Posted at 12:41 PM, Sep 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-19 19:43:20-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Independence police tell KSHB 41 that they questioned the ex-boyfriend of missing woman Ebony Duncan in connection to her case.

The ex, Charles Smith-Howell, was arrested on Sept. 14 and is in federal custody for possessing gun ammunition as a felon.

Independence police said the gun ammunition charge came out of the missing persons investigation. Federal court records say investigators found a firearm loaded with 12 rounds of 9mm ammunition inside the Buick Encore Smith-Howell was driving. The ammunition wasn't made in Missouri but was "transported in interstate commerce."

Duncan, 44, hasn't been seen since leaving work around 6 p.m. on Sept. 6. Surveillance from her workplace at Sunterra Springs rehabilitation home showed Duncan walking and getting into a silver car that had pulled up beside her.

"Never in our family has anything like this ever happened," Ebony's uncle, George Duncan, said. "This is a new experience for the whole family, one of ours come up missing."

It's tearing the family up.

"Somebody should have enough compassion and empathy for the family to try to let us know where that baby is," George Duncan said.

Ebony's life is all about her family. She was trying to hurry to meet her new grand baby the evening she went missing.

Her family reported her missing when she didn't show up for work the next morning on Sept. 7 and no one had heard from her.

The family says it makes no sense for her to be gone for two weeks and not contact anyone.

"It's been very difficult because she's not one that is replaceable," Ebony's coworker, Amber Williams, told KSHB 41.

Williams said Ebony is passionate about her job and is reliable, so it was unlike her to miss work like that.

IPD is naming Smith-Howell as a person of interest in her disappearance because of their prior relationship.

According to federal court records, Duncan confided in a co-worker that Smith-Howell threatened to kill her.

"There were some possible concerns and he had drove by the building a couple times that day she went missing," Williams said.

Williams said they checked the building's surveillance video to see what happened when Ebony left work that day. While she couldn't see who was driving the silver car, Williams said it looked like Ebony knew the person.

"She got into the car and they drove off going south toward the movie theater, and that was the last we seen of her," Williams said.

Duncan's family told KSHB 41 I-Team reporter Sarah Plake that said at the time of her disappearance, she was not with Smith-Howell but he was jealous and angry.

Police conducted a welfare check at Duncan's home and tried calling her phone but didn't reach her.

Court records say Duncan's daughter reached out to Smith-Howell on Facebook after her disappearance and asked if he'd seen her. According to her daughter, Smith-Howell said he saw Duncan "last night" and said he's "sorry if something bad happened to her."

Investigators identified the silver car that picked Duncan up the evening she went missing as a silver Chrysler 200, which belongs to Smith-Howell's current girlfriend. The girlfriend lives with Smith-Howell in Kansas City, Missouri.

Investigators determined through cell phone site data that Duncan's phone was connecting to a tower in the same area at the same time where the Chrysler 200 was spotted on nearby cameras. Duncan's phone also pinged off a tower in the same area as Smith-Howell's house in KCMO, after she got into the Chrysler 200.

The Chrysler 200 is now missing, as is Smith-Howell's girlfriend, according to Independence police.

Investigators were able to see Duncan's phone location until Sept. 14. At that time, a homeless person told police she found Duncan's phone on a bridge but couldn't remember which bridge.

That same day, investigators found another possible Kansas City address in for Smith-Howell. They surveilled the house and saw a dark-colored Buick Encore at the house.They saw someone get into the car and followed it so they could see who was driving. According to court records, the driver began driving erratically and on the wrong side of the road.

The car drove to Thompson Ave. and Drury Ave. in Kansas City and parked. Investigators saw Smith-Howell get out of the Buick and arrested him shortly after.

They searched the Buick, finding a black backpack and black trash bag but Duncan was not inside it.

After investigators thoroughly searched the car on Sept. 15, they found Smith-Howell's driver's license and federal probation and parole ID card. That's also when they found the gun and ammunition.

Independence police say they attempted to question Smith-Howell about Duncan's case, but he ended the interview and sought an attorney.

Ebony's family just wants to find her.

"It breaks our heart," Williams said. "No one should have to go through this, especially her and her family."

Her uncle George is afraid the situation won't turn out the way they're hoping it does.

"Let us get some closure on this for the family's sake," George said.

Ebony is 44 years-old but her coworkers says she looks younger. Right now, she has short black hair with loose curls and was last seen wearing blue scrubs.

Smith-Howell will be in federal court Wednesday morning.