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Probe continues in eight other Rocky Mount deaths

Posted September 30, 2011

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— A day after a jury convicted an Edgecombe County man of strangling a Rocky Mount woman and leaving her body in some woods, authorities say they are still looking into several similar cases to see if they are connected.

"The investigation into all of the other murders will continue, and we are not looking for any other suspects right now," Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight said Friday.

Knight heads a special task force of local, state and federal investigators that is looking into the deaths of nine women and the disappearance of a tenth woman over a span of four years.

All of the women shared similar backgrounds and physical appearances, many knew one another, and many frequented an area of Rocky Mount known for drug activity and prostitution.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 33, was found guilty of first-degree murder on Thursday in one of the cases. Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, was found strangled to death in some woods 5 miles from Pittman's childhood home in rural Edgecombe County.

"I believe Antwan Pittman is responsible for at least some of the others," Knight said. "We are looking for more hard evidence to connect him before we file any more charges."

Investigators have long suspected that Pittman was involved in several of the deaths, and Rocky Mount's former police chief has characterized Pittman as a suspected serial killer.

In Halifax County, the remains of Christine Boone, 43, were found in March 2010 in some woods behind a trailer where Pittman once lived.

Halifax County Sheriff Jeff Frazier said investigators are still trying to gather enough evidence that will allow them to charge Pittman in her death.

In many of the cases, there doesn't appear to be much, if any, viable evidence, which could pose challenges if authorities were to go to trial.

Medical examiners haven't been able to determine how some of the women died, and in other cases, there is little likelihood that physical evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA, could have been recovered.

In Nicholson's case, investigators were, in part, able to link Pittman to the crime through DNA since Nicholson was found days after Pittman admitted to having sex with her. Her body was also in the early stages of decomposition, which allowed conclusive autopsy results.

Some of the other women had been missing for years.

After Pittman's arrest in Nicholson's death, other victims' family members were optimistic that they would get much-needed answers to questions that have troubled them for years.

The lack of further charges has only frustrated and upset them.

"The other girls, we are just left out in space," said Pepita Hargrove, whose sister, Jarniece Hargrove, was found in June 2009. "What's going to happen (with the investigation about) my sister? I do not want it to be a closed-case file on her."

A state trooper arrested Pittman in April 2009 – the same day Hargrove's family last saw her – after finding him asleep in the driver's seat of a parked car about 200 yards from where her body would be found two months later. According to a search warrant, Pittman had mud on his boots, and his pants were unzipped.

"We need to have closure as well," Pepita Hargove said.

The family members all say they take comfort knowing that Nicholson got justice, but they say they will continue to push for answers.

Juray Tucker spent nearly two years searching before her daughter, Yolanda Renee Lancaster, 37, was found in January.

"We've still got a road ahead of us," Tucker said.

8 Comments

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  • bloodystinch Sep 30, 2011

    "Has the "Not Guilty Commission" gotten involved in this one yet?" - boneymaroney13

    Unlike the people who have been commenting on these Pittman threads, the innocence commission tries at least to look at all the factors surrounding a case before getting involved. When you look at EVERYTHING that has been made public about Pittman and these murders, you probably aren't going to want to stick your neck out there for him.

  • cdancyii Sep 30, 2011

    I am lead to believe that the defense obviously didn't have a lot to fight with so therefore the case ended quickly. I believe that the evidence presented must have been enough that the defense could not really challenge the facts as presented nor the witnesses. The families need to be patient and hope that other evidence can be linked to him and that it will be strong enough to bring before the courts. It is no need to go to court with a whole lot of doubt and allow the defense to make them look like fools. I commend the local Edgecombe, Nash and surrounding counties law enforcement whom have played a role in trying to bring some closure on the murdered and missing women saga in Edgecombe and Nash Counties.

  • ShellsNCSU Sep 30, 2011

    It's sad that none of these women received the publicity they should have received when they FIRST went missing.

    RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman is right...what good would a DNA test do now for each of these women? I just hope society gets better and that this does not happen again....It's really hard to take in the fact that these women were missing for "years" and nothing happened....sad...so sad.

  • boneymaroney13 Sep 30, 2011

    Has the "Not Guilty Commission" gotten involved in this one yet?

  • mwerevu2002 Sep 30, 2011

    Its hard to say that race was not a factor here. For other races of victms, when one of them is lost, its all over the news, all major news outlets come to town and it becomes a national story. Well here there were many women. You dont see any of them in the national news do you?

  • drakula_ig_r Sep 30, 2011

    He was convicted of ONE murder. Give the police time, they'll get the evidence together to charge him with many of the others.

  • RM24 Sep 30, 2011

    It's a sad country where some citizens are worth more than others are.
    RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman

    Based on where the bodies were found it would not matter if it was the queen of England. Lucky they found any of them? If someone is repirted missing and no leads as to where they are its more difficult to find them. And based on the fact that most prostitutes are picked up in dark areas and don't want a lot of people see them "working" no one knew where or who they were with. They also have the possibility to be picked up by anyone from anywhere. This makes finding then terribly difficult, but not unimportant. Its not that difficult to understand this.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Sep 30, 2011

    luvn - The only got him on one person where they located HIS sperm identified by DNA on her body.

    The problem is, the authorities didn't look into these missing women when they first became missing as well as they should have. If they'd been a congressional member's daughter, they'd have gotten more attention than they did.

    Then when their remains were found, it was much longer, sometimes years, and the evidence was too degraded to be useful in a DNA test.

    It's a sad country where some citizens are worth more than others are.