Suspect denies killing Rocky Mount woman
Posted September 28, 2011
Updated September 30, 2011
Windsor, N.C. — A Rocky Mount man on trial for strangling a woman more than two years ago took the witness stand in his own defense Wednesday, telling jurors that he did not kill her – even though prosecutors say the evidence points only to him.
Antwan Maurice Pittman, 33, testified that he picked up Taraha Shenice Nicholson, who was working as a prostitute, on March 1, 2009, drove to a hotel where they had sex and then dropped her off near a library in Rocky Mount.
Hunters found the 28-year-old's body six days later in a wooded area of rural Edgecombe County, approximately 5 miles from Pittman's childhood home.
DNA evidence taken from Nicholson's body matched Pittman's. He said he wore a condom but that it broke.
Pittman also recalled then being visited at work four months later by an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation. He refused to give a DNA sample, he said, because he was afraid, partly because he would lose his girlfriend and also because he didn't know what "SBI" meant.
Nicholson is one of nine women similar in physical appearance and with a history of prostitution whose bodies were found in the same general vicinity of Edgecombe County over a four-year period.
Although he is charged only in Nicholson's death, authorities have said that Pittman is a suspected serial killer and that he could be connected to at least seven of the women’s deaths.
News coverage surrounding the high-profile investigation prompted a judge to move the trial from Edgecombe County to nearby Bertie County.
Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday after only one day of presenting evidence from more than a dozen witnesses, including two former prostitutes who said Pittman tried to attack them.
Darlena Moore said he assaulted her and almost killed her in Febraury 2004 after he picked her up and tried to take her into a wooded area.
"I thought I was going to die," Moore testified. "Antwan was choking me. I kept fighting until he finally gave up and let me go."
Lakisha Worsley said Pittman drove her to a rural farm area about 5 miles outside of Rocky Mount, where he tried to strangle her while they were having sex in his car.
"He told me to turn around and lay down on my stomach," Worsley said. "He grabbed me, and then we struggled. I thought I was going to die."
Pittman "suddenly changed," Worsley said, and took her home.
"He asked me to forgive him for what he did," she said. "He held my hand and begged me to forgive him."
She never went to police, she added, because she was afraid and knew that prostitution is illegal.
Pittman denied knowing Moore and Worsley.
Earlier Wednesday, Mark Schlitter, a digital evidence analyst with the SBI, testified that he found rape-themed pornographic videos on Pittman's computer, as well as files indicating that someone had visited at least seven websites with domain names that have the word "rape" in them.
Schlitter also found an image of Taraha Nicholson from a news website that had been saved to the computer and Internet files from a news article about the discovery of her body.
Defense attorneys had objected to jurors hearing Schlitter's testimony, arguing that the discovery of the rape-themed video was irrelevant and prejudicial, since Pittman isn't charged with rape.