Local News

Juvenile charged with rape, murder in 11-year-old's death

Posted May 7, 2014

— 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."


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  • Bill Gibson May 9, 2014
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    "...he has the mind of a 7 year old..." The Lakewood High Honor Roll list has "Antonio Trey Jones" listed in 9th Grade (Oct. 2013) and I saw a 7th Grade Principal's List that he was also on. This doesn't sound like he is mentally deficient.

  • Justin Bridges May 8, 2014
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    She was 11. The boy having the rowdy party was her YOUNGER brother. So no, it wasn't a bunch of teenagers. Sounds like there was a real lack of supervision here, or maybe dad just wants to be their friend.

  • disgusted2010 May 8, 2014

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    Funny you want criminals imprisoned but hate law enforcement. I suppose you would like for crime to be investigated by news reporters.

  • Timmy Strickland May 8, 2014
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    no a 14 yr old can not be tried as a adult in nc, and he can not be sent to a adult prison. he probably be sent to a juvenile detention till he is 21

  • FarmerUSA May 8, 2014

    ABC11 has more information- the boy was their neighbor and lived next door. The girls father had forbid the boy from coming to their home for previous vulgar comments the boy had made to the girl. The boy turned 15 on Thursday of last week according to the grandfather of the boy. They boy has several mental illness diagnoses; one of which being that he has the mind of a 7 year old. He's enrolled in special education classes at his school due to his mental challenges according to ABC11 News.

  • sabsco May 8, 2014

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    14 year olds never committed murder before the invention of video games, TV, and movies?

  • Kenny Dunn May 8, 2014
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    Is it even possible in NC to try a 14 yo as an adult? I really do not know this area of the law and wondering. Brings up ethical and moral questions for us all.

  • casadelrichman May 8, 2014

    Lots of questions come to mind given only the information that has been released. I thinks there is more information their not talking about.

  • JAT May 8, 2014

    If a 14 year old can rape and kill and apparently live with it and hide it for 8 months, I can't see any hope for rehabilitation for him. Was he just left unattended so much by the adults in his life that this is what he became? How does a child cross a boundary that most grown men wouldn't even think about? What brought him to that point? Did no one else at the house notice him with her? How has he managed the last 8 months? Too bad there's not a restart button with the brain where you could do something to "start over" with the kid and try to make something of him.

  • George Costanza May 8, 2014
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    Are you really surprised by this act by a 14 year old? Really? have you watched video games, tv, movies lately? Have you seen parents look the other way when their child misbehaves? Blame someone else for their child's behavior? More shocking than the act is the fact I am not surprised at all. You can start making excuses for the boy now.