SPRING HOPE, N.C. (AP) — A sheriff in North Carolina says human remains buried in a shallow grave may belong to a woman who was reported missing 15 years ago.

News outlets report remains believed to be Deborah Deans were found Thursday behind a Spring Hope home belonging to 49-year-old Kimberly Hancock. Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone says the department received a tip about the remains last week and carried out a search warrant at the home Thursday.

Stone says an autopsy will determine the identity but there was “a strong possibility” the remains belong to Deans, who was 29 years old in 2004 when she was last seen at Hancock’s home.

Hancock is charged with first-degree murder. She’s expected in court Friday morning. It’s unclear whether she had an attorney who could comment.

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