Maiden police said Tuesday the man opened up the smoker and saw what he thought was a piece of driftwood wrapped in paper. When he unwrapped it, he found a human leg, cut off 2 to 3 inches above the knee.
The smoker had been sold at an auction of items left behind at a storage facility, so investigators contacted the mother and son who had rented the space where the smoker was found.
The mother, Peg Steele, explained her son had his leg amputated after a plane crash and kept the leg following the surgery "for religious reasons" she doesn't know much about.
"The rest of the family was very much against it," Steele said.
Steele said her son, John Wood, plans to drive to Maiden, about 35 miles northwest of Charlotte, to reclaim his amputated leg, police said.