A North Carolina man who went missing on Christmas Eve has been found dismembered and sealed in a barrel of hardened concrete, according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

The discovery was made Jan. 26 as deputies spent their second day searching property surrounding a home outside Sanford, about 40 miles southwest of Raleigh, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

“Detectives located a 55-gallon barrel in a heavily wooded area that contained concrete and suspected human remains,” the sheriff’s office said.

“The barrel was seized and sent to the North Carolina State Medical Examiner’s Office for further inspection. The Medical Examiner’s Office removed the concrete and discovered a dismembered body inside of the barrel.”

The body was identified as 40-year-old Michael Bradley Cox of Lee County, who has been reported missing since Jan. 5 after he was last seen or heard from on Dec. 24, officials said.

A suspect, 42-year-old Jackie Lamar Bright, has been charged with murder in the case, officials said. Bright lives at the home detectives were searching.

Investigators have not released a motive, and have not said if the two men knew each other prior to the killing.

Bright’s home had also been searched the first week of January, resulting in his arrest on drug charges, officials said.

“Bright has a very extensive criminal history and was released from prison in May of 2022,” the sheriff’s office said.

“He was currently on parole when the Lee County Sheriff’s Office placed Bright into custody for unrelated charges of possession of a stolen vehicle and controlled substance violations on January 6. … Bright bonded out of jail and was arrested again on January 11 … for the parole violation and additional controlled substance violations.”

The stolen vehicle was found in an outbuilding on his property, along with 270 grams of marijuana, 40 dosage units of suboxone, and cocaine, officials said.

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