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Money? Drugs? Family claims murder victim was innocent

Posted September 17

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— The family of 20-year-old Rarnisha Woods says she was an innocent victim, caught up in a senseless crime seven years ago.

Woods and Jamarcus Valentino Umstead, 24, were found dead inside his ransacked apartment at 4800 University Drive in the Beech Lake Apartments on April 11, 2009.

"Rarnisha was 20, had just turned 20 on March 20 and was just living her life," her aunt, Sybil Woods, said. "She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Rarnisha Woods was visiting Umstead, her boyfriend, while on spring break from JobCorps in Virginia, where she was studying to be a nurse.

Neighbors reported hearing what they thought might be gunshots shortly after midnight, but a severe thunderstorm muffled the blasts. The next morning, a neighbor noticed that Umstead's door was slightly open, went inside and found the bodies.

"The place was ransacked. All the kitchen cabinets were open, bedroom drawers were open," Durham Police Capt. Scott Pennica said. "It was obvious somebody was looking for something. With Jamarcus' known history – he dealt with drug activity – we figured he was there looking for money or drugs."

Despite his background, Sybil Woods said, Umstead was a respectful man, who had gotten caught up in a street lifestyle.

"We all got our faults, but Jamarcus didn't deserve to die. Nobody deserved to take his life or Rarnisha's life," Sybil Woods said.

"The person or persons that done it, I want to know why," she continued. "What gives you that right to take somebody's life? Who are you?"

Investigators have interviewed witnesses, family members and potential suspects. They have researched cell phone records for more than 50 people, but as leads dry up, they have turned to the public.

"It's common that people talk about these types of crimes," Pennica said. "If anyone in the public overheard a conversation or they were talked to, if they have detailed information about what occurred that night – we're seeking any of that information."

Rarnisha's family hopes that learning what happened in her final hours might ease their grief, her aunt said.

"When they make that arrest, I think it will start bringing us some closure, bringing healing to us. We can't bring Rarnisha back, but we can find out why you took her life," Sybil Woods said.

"And then, maybe then, her two sisters, her mother and her father can move forward, instead of standing still."

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  • sheree61604 Sep 27, 2010

    Rarnisha was my cousin and our family misses her dearly. Somebody knows something about this case and all our family is asking for is closure. She was only 20 years old; she had just started to live.

  • ccs1920 Sep 27, 2010

    Jamarcus looks tired in the photo. Probably from working two jobs to support his wife and children.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Sep 27, 2010

    "We all got our faults,..."

    Yes, we do. But most of us don't have faults of the criminal level. He got involved in drugs. I doubt they will ever know who killed them because no one's gonna talk in the drug trade.

  • awheywego Sep 27, 2010

    The shooter needs to be found. And while they are at it, how about solving the case of the 4 people shot at once in Durham a few years back.