Juvenile charged with rape, murder in 11-year-old's death
Posted May 7
Clinton, N.C. — Sampson County authorities said Wednesday that they have charged a juvenile with first-degree murder and first-degree rape in the death of an 11-year-old Salemburg girl.
Sheriff Jimmy Thornton told reporters at a news conference that the male suspect was arrested Tuesday night after an eight-month investigation into the death of McKenzie Sessoms.
Sessoms, a fifth-grader at Salemburg Elementary School, was found unresponsive and covered in a quilt on her living room couch by her father on the morning of Sept. 6.
Thornton did not identify the suspect, provide an age or motive or say how he might have known Sessoms.
Family members of the juvenile, however, identified him as 14-year-old Antonio Trey Jones, a freshman at Lakewood High School in nearby Roseboro. They said Jones is being held at a juvenile detention center in New Hanover County.
It wasn't clear how he might have known Sessoms.
Although Thornton would not provide details about the investigation, he did say the potential suspect pool consisted of more than a dozen people and investigators conducted numerous interviews and collected and processed evidence that included DNA.
According to an autopsy report released in November, Sessoms had been sexually assaulted and suffocated.
The report also noted that the younger of her two brothers – whom she and her father lived with at their home on Hairr Lane – had a "rowdy gathering" of friends outside their home on the night of Sept. 5 and that her oldest brother woke up from sleep to quiet the group before returning to bed around midnight.
Thornton said he does not expect any more charges in the case, which has been "emotionally challenging" for both the family and investigators.
Sessoms' grandmother, Cathy Starke, said it's been a nightmare for the family.
"(McKenzie) loved riding horses, riding four-wheelers, just hanging out with her friends and putting on makeup," Starke said. "She was an 11-year-old child. She wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. She had her whole life to make that plan."