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Author Topic: Rocky Mount N.C. on edge as 9 women vanish/8 found dead since 2005  (Read 18158 times)
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« on: August 15, 2009, 10:56:12 PM »

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32414958/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts//

N.C. city on edge as 9 women vanish
Six decomposed bodies found since 2005 but suspect still missing, cops say

updated 11:55 a.m. CT, Fri., Aug 14, 2009
ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. - They spent their nights jumping in and out of strange cars, trolling otherwise empty streets lined with decaying storefronts and boarded-up homes. Many sold sex to support drug habits or children left in the care of worried, hardworking grandmothers.

Even when they were picked up for drugs or prostitution, nights in jail looming, they called home to let their families know they were OK. Then, one by one, the calls stopped.

Since 2005, nine women who lived at the edges of the poor community in this small North Carolina city have disappeared. Six bodies were found along rural roads just a few miles outside town, most so decomposed that investigators could not tell how they died. At least one of the women was strangled, and all the deaths have been classified as homicides. Three women are still missing.

Residents impatient
Police will not say whether they suspect a serial killer, but people in the community about 60 miles northeast of Raleigh do, and they're impatient with law enforcement efforts to investigate the slayings.

After the latest body — that of 31-year-old Jarneice Hargrove — was found in June behind a burnt-out house that was once a crack den, local law enforcement and state police formed a task force. In July, the FBI got involved.

But friends and family say it didn't happen soon enough.

"We got someone out here that's snatching up females," said Stephanie Jones, a 28-year-old nursing student. "I mean, next person could be your grandmother, it could be me, it could be my mother, it could be my daughter."

Jones, who knew two of the victims, has founded a group that is raising money to publicize the slayings and search for those still missing. She says the cases are being swept under the rug because of the victims' lifestyles.

The lead investigator, Sheriff James Knight, said he cannot comment.

Rumors
Rumors swirl about the identity of the killer, if there is just one. Some say he is an ex-military man or an ex-police officer because he leaves no evidence. Others believe he is exacting revenge on local women after contracting HIV from a prostitute.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Michael Teague said the killings are probably the work of one person.

"You're talking about a man who didn't finish high school, probably doesn't have a regular job, probably not married or in a stable relationship," he said.

Vivian Lord, chairwoman of the criminal justice department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said that if one killer is responsible, he is likely trying to cleanse the world of prostitutes or deliberately picking victims he knows won't be missed.

If it's the latter, he chose wrong when he killed Ernestine Battle. Her sister, Tynatta James, 64, remembers the February 2008 day the family reported Battle missing. It had been less than 48 hours since they last heard from the 50-year-old, but she always checked in, even from jail.

"We knew something wasn't right because she hadn't called," James said.

A month later, a man putting up a wire fence around his property down a rural stretch of road outside town found a badly decomposed body. The bodies of two other victims were found in the same area in 2007 and 2009.

In May, a DNA test identified the remains as Battle's. She was wearing only her underwear and police told James she was probably strangled, but they couldn't be sure because animals had dragged away a small throat bone that typically breaks when someone is killed that way.

"I'm still frustrated," James said. "I didn't really feel like they were doing all they could. I just feel like they recently started to get involved in the cases after the last lady."

Wake-up call
For Alecia Johnson, the killings were a wake-up call. She knew most of the women: They all walked the streets of Rocky Mount together. She said she didn't wait for police to catch a killer. She stopped after the body of the first woman, 29-year-old Melody Wiggins, was found dumped in the woods in 2005.

"I used to walk these streets and jump in and out of cars. But then when that first girl Melody got killed I stopped that because I knew he would kill another," said Johnson, 41. "I hate for that to happen to her, but it probably saved my life. I have five babies."

Counting the names on one hand, she added, "There's probably five or six girls left around here that will jump in and out of cars. He really did kill the whole neighborhood."

Jones' group has raised enough money to post billboards with the faces of the missing and slain women. Now she is raising more to organize search teams for those whose bodies have not been found.

Juray Tucker, the mother of 37-year-old Yolanda Lancaster, missing since February, said she wants to help with fundraising but doesn't get much time now that she has to care for her daughter's children.

"Every day, every minute, every hour, I'm worried," she said. "It's constant on my mind and there ain't nothing I can do, ain't nothing I can do."

« Last Edit: March 31, 2010, 01:10:54 PM by Nut44x4 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2009, 07:44:01 PM »

Connected cases kindle coalition for missing victims


By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram

Saturday, August 22, 2009

May 2007 was a pivotal time in Jackie Wiggins’ life. She spent most evenings that month scouring the streets searching for her adult daughter, Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, asking neighborhood friends if they’d seen her and pleading with police to put out an alert.

Three months later, a man searching for bottles between the Battleboro community and Whitakers found a skeleton in a trash heap behind a burned-out farm house on Seven Bridges Road. After a few weeks, dental records confirmed the body was Thorpe’s.

“What made it worse was it didn’t seem like anybody cared,” Wiggins said, fighting back tears.

Today, as national attention focuses on her daughter’s death as part of a larger series of area murders, Wiggins is part of an effort she hopes will raise awareness about missing women of all backgrounds and help ensure other mothers won’t suffer the same heartbreak.

It wasn’t unusual for Thorpe, 35, to go missing, Wiggins said. She often was strung out on drugs, sometimes disapearing days at a time only to return as if nothing had happened. But this time was different, Wiggins said.

“I told the police, ‘This isn’t her,’” Wiggins said. “I knew something was wrong.”

Despite her efforts, there were no search crews canvassing fields or neighborhoods when Thorpe went missing, Wiggins said. Her photo wasn’t posted in area newspapers, on TV reports or on flyers around town. When Thorpe disappeared, few noticed.

When she was found murdered a few months later, the Telegram summarized her death in five paragraphs, and the case was mentioned in a single, 30-second TV news report. A few friends called to sympathize, but that was the end of it.

“It didn’t seem like anybody cared,” Wiggins said. “The police didn’t seem to care when I filed the report. Nobody ever got back with me saying, ‘We’re working on it.’ Nobody came out to my house to get a picture or asked me to bring a picture.

“I guess it didn’t seem important enough.”

Two years later, Thorpe’s death is part of a larger case that in recent weeks has drawn national media attention and has raised questions about potential disparities in how society responds to missing persons.

“That’s what we’re going to change,” said Stephanie Jones, who founded Missing or Murdered Sisters to raise awareness of the case.

At least five Rocky Mount women, all black, have been abducted, killed and abandoned in fields and wooded areas since 2005, and three other women with similar profiles are missing. Investigators believe the homicides, as well as the murder of a sixth woman yet to be identified, might be linked.

Each of the victims had a history of drug abuse and suspected prostitution.

Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight won’t reveal details about the investigation but said last week the task force of local, state and federal authorities has tracked more than 300 leads in recent months.

Outside profilers are convinced the murders are the work of a serial killer.

Authorities called in FBI forensic profilers in late July to assist the investigation.

Officials first publicly connected the dots between the cases in June, a few days after the fifth victim, Jarneice Hargrove, was found off Seven Bridges Road. Until then, each individual case received little attention, Jones said.

Family of the victims and other missing women have complained to Jones about what they had perceived as a lack of support from law enforcement and the community. Jones founded the organization, MoMS, to change that, she said.

“This isn’t just about this case,” Jones said. “MoMS is going to be an advocate for all missing persons, regardless of race or social class. Anyone who needs help — anybody who isn’t receiving the attention they need — we’re going to advocate for them and raise awareness about the case.”

Jones said she sees some good coming from the tragedies. There seems to be a heightened awareness of missing persons in Rocky Mount, Jones said. Women and girls are being more careful, and local authorities seem more sensitive when someone is reported missing, she said.

Rocky Mount police refute the idea that authorities didn’t give proper attention to past cases of missing women.

The department hasn’t changed any official policy regarding missing persons since the case went public this summer, Chief John Manley said. Officers accept missing person claims as soon as someone is deemed to be missing, Manley said, and immediately begin investigating the case.

“There is no 24-hour requirement,” Manley said. “That’s a bad policy and a common misconception. As soon as someone determines someone to be missing, and it isn’t normal, we file the report.”

Information about the missing person — including a physical description, last known location and a photo — is sent out to area law enforcement agencies and posted to a national database, Manley said.

“We take missing person reports very seriously,” he said. “That’s not new.”

The department has made a more concerted effort, though, in recent weeks to alert media of new reports.

When a Rocky Mount woman with a profile similar to the victims in this case was reported missing in July, Rocky Mount police sounded the alarm, alerting area media and posting a special bulletin on the city Web site. The woman was found hours later, unharmed.

But Wiggins said there wasn’t a rush to notify the community when her daughter went missing.

“That’s the thing we’ve tried to change,” said Patricia Martin, Thorpe’s aunt and a member of MoMS. “If a parent comes to report a child missing, if they feel like something’s not right, it should be investigated just like anybody else. There should be pictures up for everybody to see.”

Hargrove’s murder was the catalyst for the task force probe into the series of murders. Bodies of the other victims — Thorpe, Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28; Ernestine Battle, 50; and Melody Wiggins, 29 — were found between 2005 and early this year along the same rural stretch outside Rocky Mount in Edgecombe County. All the victims were only partially clothed, and at least two had been strangled.

Authorities are searching for at least three missing women in connection with the investigation: Yolanda “Snap” Lancaster, 37; Joyce Renee Durham, 46; and Christine Marie Boone, 43.

Jones, who was outraged at the lack of support after two of her own family members were murdered several years ago, said her organization is working to build community support for victims’ families and the families of women still missing.

The group also is working to minister to women struggling through addiction and life on the street.

“The thing is those parents — parents of women who maybe have a rough background — they love their children just like a parent whose child is going to school for a medical degree or to be a lawyer,” Jones said. “Hopefully, that’s what comes out of this — that all people who go missing and their families will get the attention they deserve.”
http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/news/connected-cases-kindle-coalition-for-missing-victims-791322.html
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« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2009, 07:46:07 PM »

Man arrested in one of six Edgecombe slayings
9/1/09


Rocky Mount, N.C. — Authorities have arrested a man in the slaying of one of six women found dead over the past four years in rural Edgecombe County.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, whose last known address was 219 Anderson St., Rocky Mount, face one count of murder in the death of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28.

Nicholson was reported missing Feb. 22. Her remains were found March 7 on Marriott Road. An autopsy found she most likely was strangled.

Pittman had been in the Nash County Jail for an Aug. 12 arrest in which he was charged with driving with a license revoked, driving without an operator's license and failing to register as a sex offender.

He made an appearance before the Edgecombe County magistrate Tuesday morning.

Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight has planned a 2:30 p.m. news conference about their investigation into Nicholson's death, as well as five other women. (Watch the news conference live on WRAL.com.)

The remains of Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, 31, Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29, Ernestine Battle, 50, and Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, were also found in the same rural region near Seven Bridges and Old Battleboro roads. A sixth body discovered in February has yet to be identified.

There have been no arrests in any of the other cases.

Each of the known victims was black, from Rocky Mount and had a history of drug use and had run-ins with the law. Each was reported missing before their bodies were discovered.

Three other women with similar descriptions and backgrounds – Christine Marie Boone, Renee Joyce Durham and Yolanda Renee Lancaster – remain missing.

The case has received attention from local and national media since WRAL News first reported in June on a possible connection in the slayings.

Authorities, including the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office, Rocky Mount Police Department and State Bureau of Investigation, have said very little about their investigation since forming a task force to look into the deaths.

The Behavioral Analysis Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has also been investigating.
www.wral.com/news/local/wral_investigates/.../5908959/
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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2009, 07:47:18 PM »

Pittman faces murder charge
Makes first appearance in court
By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram
Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The man accused of killing a Rocky Mount woman and dumping her body in a field made his first court appearance on those charges this morning.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, faces one count of first-degree murder in the death of 28-year-old Taraha Shenice Nicholson.

Authorities said they still are investigating to determine if Pittman had anything to do with the deaths of four other women killed in similar circumstances since 2005.

Pittman, charged Tuesday in the slaying, said little during the brief hearing at the Edgecombe County courthouse.

District Court Judge Pell Cooper set a probable cause hearing for Sept 16. and appointed two attorneys – Tommy Moore and Tom Sallenger – to defend Pittman. District Attorney Robert Evans represented the state during the hearing, perhaps indicating he will try the case, which has drawn national media attention in recent weeks.

Taraha Nicholson’s body was discovered March 7 in the woods off Marriott Road, three weeks after her mother reported her missing. Nicholson was only partially clothed, authorities said, and she had been choked to death, according to the autopsy.

Nicholson was the fourth victim discovered along the same rural stretch in Western Edgecombe County since 2005. All the victims were black women from low-income families in East Rocky Mount.

Pittman served a three-year sentence beginning in 1994 after being convicted of taking indecent sexual liberties with a 2-year-old, according to criminal records. He also had been convicted of assault, larceny, trespassing and resisting police in recent years.

Pittman, known to have lived around the Battleboro community and at various addresses in East Rocky Mount, was arrested on Aug. 12 for driving with a revoked license and failure to register his address as a sex offender. He was being held in Nash County jail awaiting a court date until authorities transferred him Tuesday to Edgecombe County jail.

It remains unclear if authorities believe Pittman might be a suspect in the other murders.

Bodies of all the victims – Nicholson, 28, Ernestine Battle, 50, Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, Melody Wiggins, 29, and Jarneice Hargrove, 31 – were found between 2005 and early this year along the same rural stretch outside the city.

Investigators have said they believe the homicides, as well as the murder of a sixth woman yet to be identified, might be linked. Police are searching for three other missing women in connection with the case.

Authorities said they are continuing to search for Yolanda “Snap” Lancaster, 37, Joyce Renee Durham, 46, and Christine Boone, 43.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Rocky Mount Police Department at 252-972-1411.
http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/news/pittman-faces-murder-charge-810963.html
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2009, 07:48:44 PM »

Sep 05, 2009
Rocky Mount murder suspect's guilt in doubt

ROCKY MOUNT - Neighbors of a man accused of killing one of six women found dead on the outskirts of rural Rocky Mount say he kept mostly to himself, but many are convinced he's innocent.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, was charged with first-degree murder Monday in the death of 29-year-old Taraha Shenice Nicholson who was found strangled, her body dumped on a rural stretch of road where five other women have been found dead. Nicholson, like most of the slain women, had a history of drug abuse and prostitution.

The Edgecombe County sheriff formed a task force with the State Bureau of Investigation and asked the FBI to consult after the sixth body was discovered in June.

Neighbors in Pittman's run-down neighborhood in Rocky Mount, about 50 miles east of Raleigh, said they don't know Pittman well, but they're skeptical of police.

"I wouldn't even believe he killed the first one," said 56-year-old neighbor Leroy Silver from a yard sale in his backyard, just around the corner from the house where Pittman lived with his mother and girlfriend. "I would see him around - he's just a normal person."

Other neighbors sifting through card tables filled with glassware and old T-shirts jumped in to speculate that the murder was pinned on Pittman and that the police have no evidence. "They're just assuming!" one woman shouted before asking the price of a fishing rod.

Other neighbors say they're scared because they think the real killer still is out there, and three women still are missing.

"I don't think that boy ever had a car," added Silver, wondering how Pittman could have picked up Nicholson and dumped her body on the outskirts of town without a car.

Silver's wife, 49-year-old Charlene Silver, agrees. People around here don't trust the police, she said, recounting a time she says she was thrown in jail because she resembled a police suspect. Counting out a fistful of dollar bills - proceeds from her yard sale - she asked, "Where is the evidence?"

The Sheriff's Office declined to comment on Pittman's arrest or the investigations into the other homicides.

Thomas Moore, Pittman's court-appointed lawyer, said the case is in the initial stages, and he knows "next to nothing.

"He seems to be very scared, just like anybody would be in that situation," Moore said.

Gloria Pittman, the suspect's mother, came to her front screen door but said she had no comment about her son. Pittman's uncle, seated on the front porch, said he knows his nephew didn't do it because "he's too scared."

Pittman is a registered sex offender, convicted in November 1994 of taking indecent liberties with a 2-year-old. He spent about 16 months in prison and was released in April 1997. He has been arrested in years past on misdemeanor charges such as simple assault, larceny, and trespassing and resisting a public officer.

From May 2008 until he was fired in July, Pittman worked at a Perdue Foods plant in Lewiston. According to Perdue spokeswoman Julie DeYoung, Pittman worked in the production line. Plant work would have involved slaughtering live chickens, cutting them up, deboning them and preparing them for the consumer.

Nicholson was reported missing in February, and her decomposing body was found less than a month later. An autopsy report identified abrasions indicating her body had been dragged, a fractured bone in her throat and a toxicology test positive for cocaine. She was wearing only a bra, pulled up to her neck, and a pair of white socks.

Dr. Michael Teague, a former forensic psychologist for the state, dismissed the notion that police charged Pittman on "flimsy evidence," but he added that, "Everybody is so hooked on CSI, they think we have this 'Star Wars' technology, but sometimes when you've got just smoldering bones, it's pretty hard to put something together."

Rake Shell, who lived in the same apartment building with Pittman for about two months over the summer, said, "He didn't talk to nobody else over here. He was just straight up a turtle in his shell."

Shell said Pittman didn't drive a car or have a job and lived in an apartment with several other people, including his girlfriend, with no lights and no furniture. "They were the only ones we didn't know too much about," he said.

Officials won't say if Pittman is a suspect in the other murders, but victims' family members are hoping for closure. "We're praying to God this is the one that did all this," said Patsy Hargrove, mother of Jarneice Hargrove whose body, found in June, was the last one discovered. "I do believe it's a serial killer ... I think it's one man," Hargrove said.

Teague agrees with her. "It would be highly coincidental" to dump Nicholson's body in the same spot as all the other victims, he said. "I'm not sure (the killer) is sophisticated enough to say, 'I'm going to throw the cops off and put the body where all those other bodies were dumped.' "

Pittman is being held without bail at Central Prison in Raleigh. A probable cause hearing is set for Sept. 16.
http://www.fayobserver.com/Articles/2009/09/05/931188
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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2009, 07:49:48 PM »

Rocky Mount, N.C. — An Edgecombe County grand jury indicted Antwan Maurice Pittman on one-count of first degree murder on Tuesday.


Pittman, 31, whose last known address was 219 Anderson St. in Rocky Mount, was charged last week in the death of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 29.

Nicholson was reported missing to Rocky Mount police on Feb. 22, and her remains were found March 7 on Marriott Road in a wooded area off Seven Bridges Road. An autopsy found she most likely was strangled.

Investigators have been probing the deaths of Nicholson and four other African-American women – Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, 31, Ernestine Battle, 50, Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, and Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29 – who each were reported missing before their remains were found in rural Edgecombe County. A sixth set of remains, yet to be identified, was found in Rocky Mount in February.

Authorities have also been investigating the disappearance of three Rocky Mount women with similar descriptions and backgrounds.

http://www.wral.com/news/local/wral_investigates/story/5958773/
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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2009, 07:50:34 PM »

Deputies search for 3 missing women
Modified Wed, Sep. 09, 2009 09:11PM

The Johnston County Sheriff's Office sent a search-and-rescue team to Edgecombe County on Wednesday to aid in the search for as many as three women who have been reported missing, a spokeswoman said.

The effort comes a little more than a week after the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office charged a convicted sex offender with the death of one of six women whose bodies have been found in the swampy woodlands of rural Edgecombe County, about 60 miles northeast of Raleigh.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, of Rocky Mount was charged with the strangulation death of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, whose body was found in a wooded area along Marriott Farm Road.




The six women were victims of homicides dating back to 2005. A multi-agency task force formed at the request of the Edgecombe Sheriff's Office has been investigating the homicides since late June. Edgecombe Sheriff James L. Knight has not said whether Pittman has been implicated in the other women's deaths.

Efforts to reach Knight for comment Wednesday failed.

Three more women have been reported missing in the area since 2007. Christine Marie Boone, 43, and Joyce Renee Durham, 46, were reported missing in January and June of that year, respectively, while Yolanda Renee "Snap" Lancaster, 37, was reported missing in March 2008.

The Johnston County search-and-rescue team is helping search near where some of the other women's bodies were found along Seven Bridges and Marriott Farm roads, north of Rocky Mount, sheriff's spokeswoman Tammy Amaon said.

Amaon said she did not know if the search team was called to look for one or more persons.

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/1682413.html
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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2009, 07:53:34 PM »


ROCKY MOUNT (WTVD) -- Local officials have doubled the reward for information in the deaths of six women and the disappearance of three more.

The City of Rocky Mount and the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office will match the $10,000 offer by the Kefalas-Pinto Foundation for a total of $20,000.
Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, Ernestine Battle, 50, Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, Melody Wiggins, 29, and Jarneice Hargrove, 31, were all found murdered between 2005 and early this year.

Their bodies were all dumped in wooded areas near Rocky Mount.
The body of the first woman - Wiggins - was found in May 2005 on Noble Mill Pond Road. She'd been beaten and stabbed.

Thorpe was found in August 2007. Her head and an arm had been cut off.
In February, skeletal remains that have yet to be identified were found, and then Battle was found in March, 2008 in some woods. The medical examiner said it was not possible to determine a cause of death.

Nicholson was found in March, and Hargrove was found in June by a farmer.
Three other women are missing.

Yolanda Lancaster, 37; Joyce Renee Durham, 46; and Christine Marie Boone, 43 have not been heard from by their families for months.
The victims all had similar backgrounds. All were linked to drug abuse and possible prostitution.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, is accused of killing Nicholson. He was indicted in her murder Tuesday. But, investigators have refused to say if he's a suspect in the other deaths.

Anyone with information on the murders should contact Twin County Crimestoppers at (252) 977-1111.
http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=news/local&id=7038746&rss=rss-wtvd-article-7038746
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« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2009, 07:54:03 PM »

State won't seek death penalty against Rocky Mount murder suspect

Posted: Today at 12:13 p.m.

Tarboro, N.C. — The state won't seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing a Rocky Mount woman – one of several women whose bodies were found within a 10-mile radius in Edgecombe County over the past four years.

During a hearing Thursday, prosecutors said there were no aggravating factors that qualified the case against Antwan Maurice Pittman as a capital case.

Pittman, 31, faces one count of first-degree murder in the strangling death of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28. He pleaded not guilty Thursday and has been held without bond at Central Prison in Raleigh since his arrest Sept. 1.

Authorities have said little about their case against Pittman or how they linked him to Nicholson's death. Her remains were found in March in a wooded area about a mile outside Rocky Mount.

Nicholson is one of five Rocky Mount women with histories of police run-ins, drugs and prostitution who authorities say were reported missing and were later discovered slain. A sixth woman who hasn't been identified was also found in the same area.

Family members of Pittman declined to comment after Thursday's hearing, but his mother said in an interview last month that he was incapable of murder.

Nicholson's mother, Diana Nicholson, was also in court Thursday's. She sat crying as she looked at Pittman.

"I want to be here for everything that goes on, for my daughter," she said. "It was very hard (seeing Pittman). My heart is hurting, It just hurts so bad."

http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/6116351/
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« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2009, 07:54:43 PM »

Rocky Mount advertises reward in case of missing, murdered women
Edgecombe slain women

Posted: Oct. 9, 2009
Updated: 55 minutes ago

Rocky Mount, N.C. — Rocky Mount police on Friday published a flier advertising the $20,000 reward offered for information related to the deaths of six women in Edgecombe County over the past four years.

Authorities are leading a task force of local, state and FBI investigators looking at connections in the cases of six black women found dead in a rural area of the county.

Since 2005, authorities have recovered the remains of Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, 31, Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29, Ernestine Battle, 50, and Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35. A sixth body, found in February, has yet to be identified.

Three other women with similar descriptions and backgrounds are missing from Rocky Mount. They are: Christine Marie Boone, Renee Joyce Durham and Yolanda Renee Lancaster.

The Kefalas Pinto Foundation has offered a $10,000 reward in the case. Rocky Mount City Council and Edgecombe County commissioners agreed to match that amount, putting up $5,000 each to bring the reward total to $20,000, for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction or leads to the discovery of the missing women, Mayor David W. Combs said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Twin County Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111.

http://www.wral.com/news/news_briefs/story/6172163/
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« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2009, 07:55:34 PM »

Rocky Mount body identified
Elizabeth Jane Smallwood

Rocky Mount, N.C. — The body of a woman found in Rocky Mount on Feb. 13 has been identified as 33-year-old Elizabeth Jane Smallwood, police said Monday.

Smallwood, whose last known address was 249 Hill St., had not been reported missing to authorities.

A medical examiner’s report indicated that Smallwood’s remains, which were found along Melton Drive at the Nash-Edgecombe county line, could have been there for six months to a year.

An official cause of death was not known, police said.

In Nash and Edgecombe counties, Smallwood had been arrested on charges of prostitution, assault, drug possession, larceny and resisting arrest.

Smallwood is one of six women whose remains have been found in the same area.

Since 2005, authorities have recovered the remains of Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, 31, Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29, Ernestine Battle, 50, and Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35.

Three other women with similar descriptions and backgrounds are missing from Rocky Mount. They are: Christine Marie Boone, Renee Joyce Durham and Yolanda Renee Lancaster.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, whose last known address was 219 Anderson St. in Rocky Mount, was charged last month with one-count of first degree murder in the Nicholson’s death.

The Kefalas Pinto Foundation has offered a $10,000 reward in the case. Rocky Mount City Council and Edgecombe County commissioners agreed to match that amount, putting up $5,000 each to bring the reward total to $20,000, for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction or leads to the discovery of the missing women.

Anyone with information on this case should contact Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111 or the Rocky Mount Police Department at 252-972-1411.

http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/6191029/
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« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2009, 07:56:35 PM »

How the Media Treat Murder

Why isn't the story of several missing women in North Carolina getting attention?

Oct 21, 2009

Ten women have been found slain or have been declared missing in Rocky Mount, N.C., in recent years. But the rest of the country hasn't heard about a possible serial killer stalking the young women in this Southern town of 60,000. The latest victim, Elizabeth Jane Smallwood, was identified on Oct. 12. Why have the Rocky Mount homicides been largely ignored?


"When you think about the famous missing-person cases over the last few years it's Chandra Levy, Natalee Holloway, and Laci Peterson," notes Sam Sommers, associate professor of psychology at Tufts University. All these women had a few things in common—they were white, educated, and came from middle-class families. The victims in Rocky Mount—which residents describe as a "typical Southern town," and is about 40 percent white and more than 50 percent black—were different. They were all African-American, many were poor, and some had criminal histories including drug abuse and prostitution.


"If it was someone of a different race, things would have been dealt with the first time around; it wouldn't have taken the fifth or sixth person to be murdered," says Andre Knight, a city-council member and president of the local NAACP chapter. "All these women knew each other and lived in the same neighborhood; this is the sign of a potential serial killer. When it didn't get the kind of attention it needed, it made the African-American community frustrated."


Police have not officially linked all the murders and disappearances, but community members claim the similarities among the women, their lifestyles, and the location of their bodies make a connection all too obvious. "If you find two bodies in the same location, this could be the work of the same person or people," says Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley, who would not comment on a connection, but implied the possibility.


Rumors are running rampant around the town about the identity of the serial killer. There is not much physical evidence, leading some to speculate it's a former law-enforcement officer or someone in the military. Others have deduced that the killer is targeting specific women as a form of revenge for contracting HIV from a prostitute. Along with Smallwood, the murders of Taraha Nicholson, 28, Jarniece Hargrove, 31, Ernestine Battle, 50, Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, Melody Wiggins, 29, and Denise Williams, 21, remain unsolved. Authorities are also searching for Yolanda Lancaster, 37, Joyce Renee Durham, 46, and Christine Boone, 43.


One man is in custody for the murder of Nicholson, who was the fourth victim, discovered back in 2005. This past September, police charged Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, with her murder. He is accused of strangling Nicholson and dumping her partially clothed body in the woods. So far, authorities have not linked Pittman to the other murders. "There's a lot of mixed sentiments about Pittman," says Knight, referring to community speculation about whether police have charged the right man.


"In this Information Age, cases get solved through sheer publicity, whether it's an Amber Alert or America's Most Wanted, anyone could have a tip or be a potential source of information," Sommers says.


But the national media did show some interest in the story after it was revealed that five women were murdered in or around the town. "Nancy Grace called and wanted to have some of us on her show, but before it aired there was a white woman from Georgia that went missing. The Nancy Grace show was canceled," Knight says. HLN network, which broadcasts Nancy Grace, confirmed that Knight was booked for the show, which was ultimately canceled to profile the disappearance of Kristi Cornwell, a white woman from Blairsville, Ga., who went missing during an evening walk.


Representatives from Nancy Grace told NEWSWEEK, "The booking was changed due to news that was breaking that day," and emphasized the change had nothing to do with the race of the victim. On Aug. 12, Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees covered the story.


That bit of media exposure brought new resources to the investigation. Originally, only a small amount of reward money was collected for information about the case. After the story aired on CNN , New Jersey philanthropist Peter Pinto, of the Kefalas-Pinto Foundation, donated $10,000 from a personal trust. In late September, the city donated an additional $5,000, which was matched by a $5,000 county donation, bringing the amount of reward money to $20,000. If there were no media coverage, there might have been no reward. The money isn't just going to help with the investigation, it's helping the families of the victims, specifically their children.


The money proved to be a blessing for Jurary Tucker, the mother of Yolanda Lancaster, who has been missing since February 2008. "We were able to use some of the money to get [Yolanda's] children ready for school," Tucker says. "They have to wear uniforms to school and they are very expensive; the money came at a good time." Tucker became the primary custodian of her granddaughter and grandson after Lancaster's disappearance.


When Annie Le, a 24-year-old Yale pharmacology graduate student, went missing on Sept. 8, it only took three days for the university to offer a $20,000 reward. In the case of the Rocky Mount women, it took more than six years to raise that same amount of money for 10 women.
Concerned residents of the town tried to promote the case by distributing fliers and purchasing a billboard advertisement featuring the women, but their efforts may have backfired. Mug-shot photographs of the victims, many pictured in orange jumpsuits, sometimes appearing disheveled or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, were used in their efforts. Unlike the images of a smiling Annie Le, these images showed the women during darker times.


"Everyone has a dark side at some point, but you want to put your best out front when you are trying to appeal [to the public] for help," Chief Manley says. "When you look at obituaries in the newspaper, [the photos] show a bright time in someone's life; you really want to show the person when they are doing well."


Manley says the police department used the victims' driver's license photographs to help with search efforts. "You don't need to air dirty laundry. Seeing someone's dark side doesn't appeal to the conscience of other people," he says.


Concern over the buried headlines and lack of national media attention isn't the only thing upsetting residents; some say there are deeper festering racial tensions in the community. When a candlelight vigil was held to commemorate the murdered women, only black community officials attended. When other vigils were organized for deaths in Rocky Mount, there was no racial divide, and community members, both black and white, attended the events in droves. "When a prominent attorney's wife died, we all came together and the church was full, but when the community was coming together to share their pain and reach out to these families, only black elected officials were there," Knight says. "They [white officials] didn't have an excuse, they just didn't come."


White officials, including the mayor, say they weren't invited to the memorial. "It's hard to attend something that you don't even know is occurring," says David Combs, mayor of Rocky Mount. "I was glad that we had the vigil and had people who were involved."


For the families who just want to locate their daughters or bring closure to their murders, the investigation has been a long, drawn-out process. Tucker speaks about her daughter in the past tense, quickly catches herself, and shifts to the present tense, emphasizing her commitment to finding her daughter. "As far as the investigation goes, I just hope they continue to do the best they can to put closure to the missing girls and the girls that have been found," Tucker says. "Whatever it is, we are here waiting."


"Regardless of drug addiction or other problems, that still doesn't give a person the right to kill another," says Knight. "If we can give a terrorist a day in court, we can get these women justice."


http://www.newsweek.com/id/218911
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« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2009, 08:02:07 PM »

NOTE: I must give credit to Grande, Faith, sarahhod, Roamer, Packy and Pandabear @ HFTM for finding many of the articles.
http://helpfindthemissing.org/forum/showthread.php?t=15216&highlight=ROCKY
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« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2009, 08:02:48 PM »

I may move this to unsolved crimes....I dunno.
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« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2009, 04:28:40 PM »

Autopsy reveals little about how Rocky Mount woman died

Updated: Today at 3:14 p.m.

Rocky Mount, N.C. — An autopsy on a woman whose body was found near the Nash-Edgecombe county line in February failed to determine how she died.

Rocky Mount police have said the remains of Elizabeth Jane Smallwood, 33, could have been exposed to the elements for as much as a year before they were found along Melton Drive.

In an autopsy report released Friday, the medical examiner wrote that, given the conditions in which she was found, Smallwood's death was "highly suspicious for homicidal violence." The official cause of her death remains undetermined.

A special task force is investigating Smallwood's death, along with the slayings of five women found in the same rural area of Edgecombe County.

http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/6649473/
« Last Edit: December 18, 2009, 04:31:21 PM by Nut44x4 » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2010, 05:24:36 PM »

Police say the search is over for a missing woman who was last seen on January 8.

Police say 25-year-old Ashley Balance of Rocky Mount "contacted her mother upon learning of her missing person status," and that Balance has returned home.
http://www.witn.com/home/headlines/81283272.html
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« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2010, 05:25:53 PM »

Woman's Body In Motel Room Called Suspicious
Rocky Mount police say the woman's body was found around 10:40 a.m. Wednesday morning in room 104 at the Executive Inn on North Wesleyan Boulevard.
http://www.witn.com/home/headlines/81354847.html
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« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2010, 06:33:50 PM »

IMO neither of the above 2 posts are related to this thread. That is just my own opinion, lol.
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« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2010, 09:09:27 AM »

Woman's Body In Motel Room Called Suspicious
Rocky Mount police say the woman's body was found around 10:40 a.m. Wednesday morning in room 104 at the Executive Inn on North Wesleyan Boulevard.
http://www.witn.com/home/headlines/81354847.html

Body Found
          Eastern NC   -  1/14/2010
   Rocky Mount Police say housekeepers found the body at the Executive Inn Wednesday morning.

The body has been identified as 38-year-old Melissa Jo Wise. She was originally reported missing from her job in Franklin County.

Investigators don't know how the woman died, but they are calling the death suspicious. Police are also looking for Wise's vehicle, a 2002 Ford F-150, with the North Carolina license plate, VRC-7985. 
http://www.wcti12.com/PrinterFriendlyNews.asp?STORYNUM=1018069980&recordsource=NEWS2010
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« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2010, 08:21:33 PM »

Rocky Mount deaths could go unsolved

Posted: Jan. 15, 2010

Raleigh, N.C. — The deaths of several women found in a 10-mile radius near Rocky Mount may never result in a conviction of the person or people responsible for their deaths, if they are determined to be homicides.

That's according to retired Raleigh police detective Chris Morgan, who says there might not be enough evidence to build a case.

Morgan, who isn't connected in any way to the investigation, says that based on what he can tell from autopsy results on the six victims – each discovered within a four-year period – prosecutors face an uphill battle in taking the cases to trial. Morgan talks about the challenges of a conviction.)

That's because, of the six women, medical examiners have only been able to determine how two of them died.

"Undetermined cause of death is a huge challenge," he said, adding that most prosecutors are reluctant to take a case to court without it. "You have to be able to articulate something from the witness stand about how an individual died. You have to have some workable theory about how the murder happened." (Morgan talks about the challenges of an undetermined death.)

Of the two cases where a cause of death is known, Morgan says there is little likelihood that physical evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA, could have been recovered to help link the victim to her offender. (Morgan talks about the importance of evidence.)

All of the bodies were found in a rural area that is abundant with wildlife and insects, and they have been exposed to the elements for weeks, months and in some cases, years.

"All these things, once death occurs, start working against the investigator," Morgan said. "A body that's been left out for a week, in particularly in the warmer months in North Carolina, is going to be, in many cases, devoid of some of the most useful evidence that investigators look for in homicide investigations."

A special task force of local, state and federal authorities is looking for possible links among the six cases.

The victims – Melody Wiggins, Jackie Thorpe, Ernestine Battle, Taraha Nicholson, Jarniece Hargrove and Elizabeth Smallwood – fit a similar profile. Each was black, had a history of drug use, prostitution or both, and family members and friends said many knew each other.

Investigators, however, have said very little about the case publicly, and family members say they have not heard much else.

The last time authorities spoke of the case was in September, when they charged Antwan Pittman in Nicholson's death; an autopsy found she died of strangulation.

Hoping for further developments in the investigation – possibly more charges against Pittman – family members say they are now frustrated and upset that questions about their loved ones' deaths remain unsolved.

Hargrove's skeletal remains were discovered June 29 in a wooded area off Seven Bridges Road – more than a month after her family reported her missing.

"It's just sad that it's taken all this many months, and they haven't succeeded on anything. If they have, they haven't let us know anything," her sister, Pepita Hargrove, said. "I know they can't let out but so much information, but they can let the families that are grieving and crying constantly every day – they can let us know something."

Autopsy results were inconclusive about how Hargrove died.

"They're saying (her death) can't be determined. That's not enough information for me, and I'm not going to rest until somebody says something more," Hargrove said. "My sister wasn't out in the field picking daisies and fell on a rock and hit her head and rotted out there in the woods."

Investigators can also look at circumstantial evidence to help in the investigations.

"You start looking at the circumstances -- where these women were, who they were seen with, how they knew each other – and start trying to link cases and find common links," Morgan said.

He says that after physical evidence, the next step is to build a profile and a timeline on a suspect and for investigators to reach out with as much information as possible. (Morgan on reaching out to the public.)

"You have to engage the public," Morgan said. "They are your best weapon in working a case like this, because people see things. It's just sometimes they don't realize what they've seen."

One of Morgan's biggest unsolved cases, the 2002 rape and murder of Stephanie Bennett in Raleigh, was solved after more than three years, in part, because he kept the case in the media spotlight.

Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight, who is overseeing five of the six cases, has generally declined to comment about them, and calls to his office have gone unreturned.

Rocky Mount police, who are handling the investigation into Smallwood's death, as well as the missing persons cases of three other women fitting the same profile, are "actively working those cases" and seeking new leads from the public, a spokeswoman said.

"(The media) is the best weapon I've got to communicate with large numbers of people throughout the community and if I'm not willing to talk with news reporters, then I'm not using one of the most important potential weapons that I have in getting information," Morgan said.

"You've got to replace that lack of physical evidence with something else, and that is most often times information that is buried somewhere deep in the community," he added. "But it's in that community, and you've got to pull it out."

http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/6819816/
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