GASTONIA, N.C. -- The family of a missing Gaston County woman whose body was found in a car Monday in a rugged McDowell County ravine is seeking donations to pay for her funeral.
Elizabeth “Liz” Stonger was a 27-year-old mother who had been missing since Oct. 14. She disappeared after leaving her job at Walmart in Belmont during a lunch break.
Authorities said the car was found about 400 feet off Spooky Hollow Road and down a 100-foot embankment. The vehicle was positively identified as Stonger’s by the registration tag and the vehicle identification number.
The body was sent to the N.C. Medical Examiner for an autopsy.
Authorities said they don’t suspect foul play and for now are treating the wreck as an accident.
On Friday, Amy Stonger of Gastonia said her sister’s body was ready to be released and the family is making calls to arrange for cremation and a memorial service “but unfortunately we don’t have the financial resources necessary.”
The family has set up an account at Wells Fargo for donations toward the funeral, Stonger said. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch by requesting to make a deposit to the “Elizabeth Stonger Memorial Fund.”
Amy Stonger said she’s a college student with five children, her mother is in the middle of a foreclosure on her house and that other family members have financial problems. Also, she said Liz Stonger “didn’t have any finances of her own.”
Meanwhile, Amy Stonger said the family is waiting on the autopsy results.
“There are still so many unanswered questions,” she said. “What was she doing there? Did she kill herself? We have no idea what she had been up to.”
Authorities said they found a journal of several pages in the car but didn’t release the contents. Stronger said “we hope to get access to it soon.”
She plans to visit the dead-end road in rural McDowell County where her sister’s body was found. Every weekend since the disappearance, Stonger and other family members conducted their own searches and were in the area where the body was eventually found off U.S. 221. It was in the vicinity of where authorities said Liz Stonger’s cellphone was last used.
The searching, the waiting, the discovery of her sister’s body – the entire experience has been “horrible,” Amy Stonger said.
On Nov. 27, Liz Stonger’s son turned 3. Amy Stonger hasn’t tried to explain everything to him yet, saying only that “mamma’s gone and isn’t coming back.”
She knows that all the questions about what happened to her sister may never be answered.
“But every day of my life I’ll think about her,” Stonger said. “It’s hard. She’ll never see her son grow up. I’ll do my best to be there for him. But it still won’t be the same.”