Local News

Similar murders in Edgecombe County prompt calls for federal investigation

Posted July 1, 2009
Updated July 9, 2009

— A Rocky Mount city councilman called Wednesday for authorities to step up their investigation into the unsolved murders of five women over the past four years. Each of the bodies was found in a rural field outside the city.

Edgecombe County murders Task force investigating Edgecombe County murders

The Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office, Rocky Mount police and the State Bureau of Investigation have formed a task force to connect the dots among the cases, Sheriff James Knight told WRAL News.

The sheriff did not say the five cases are linked, but said the task force is working that angle.

Each of the bodies found was of a black woman who lived in Rocky Mount. Each was murdered, Sheriff Knight has said. He said the city and county  are comparing the body found Monday with other cases and looking for similarities.

“We should also have someone from the federal level also come in and take a look at it, that's how serious it is,” Councilman Andre Knight said.

“They are primarily young African-American women, and that's a great concern,” added the councilman, who is also the local president of the NAACP.

View Edgecombe County bodies in a larger map

The latest find, skeletal remains Sheriff Knight said appear to be those of an African-American woman, was made Monday evening in a wooded area off Seven Bridges Road.

On May 30, 2005, the body of Melody Wiggins, 29, was found near Nobles Mill Pond Road, an area south of U.S. Highway 64.

On Aug. 17, 2007, a man told Edgecombe deputies he found a body behind a house on Seven Bridges Road, between Battleboro and Whitakers. Pathologists at Pitt Memorial Hospital identified the victim as 35-year-old Jackie Nikelia Thorpe. Thorpe was reported missing from Rocky Mount on May 8, 2007, police said.

On March 14, 2008, the body of 50-year-old Earnestine Battle, of 619 Branch St. in Rocky Mount, was found in the same area, along Seven Bridges Road, between Battleboro and Whitakers. She had been reported missing more than a month earlier.

On March 7, 2009, people riding all-terrain vehicles on Marriott Road found a body that was later identified as Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, of 218 N. Raleigh St. in Rocky Mount.

The individual causes of death have not been released.

Autopsy reports were available in two of the cases. An autopsy is not complete for Nicholson, who died in March. The sheriff said it appears she was strangled. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner had no record of Thorpe.

A pathologist determined that Wiggins died of blunt force trauma to the head and had cuts over much of her body. The autopsy on Battle was inconclusive.

Records show five open cases of African-American women reported missing from Rocky Mount since 2005.

  • Wiesha Nicole Parker, 18, was reported missing Oct. 11, 2005.
  • Christine Boone, 45, was reported missing on Jan. 16, 2007.
  • Jessica Simone Williams, 19, was reported missing June 17, 2007.
  • Joyce Renee Durham, 48, was reported missing Aug. 9, 2007.
  • Yolanda Renee Lancaster, 36, was reported missing on March 30.

A Tarboro newspaper reported on another missing woman May 29. Jarniece Lotonya Hargrove, sometimes known as "Sunshine," 31, was last seen May 2 in the northern part of Rocky Mount, walking on U.S. Highway 301, Sheriff Knight told the Daily Southerner.

Sheriff Knight said his deputies are close to identifying the most recent victim.

He said Wednesday that area residents should take common-sense precautions. " In certain areas that we have been having disappearances ... I would say you need to be cautious. You need to be aware of your surroundings and you need to know who is in your community."


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  • InvolvedCitizen Jul 2, 2009

    Ooo, this looks really, really bad. Really scary. I wish some one had recognized the similarities and escalated the investigations sooner. Much sooner. Grr.

  • RonnieR Jul 2, 2009

    CO, right now nothing reported indicates that it is a federal crime. The FBI has to have a federal crime to be used. However, the US Marshal for the Eastern District could help, if asked.

  • RonnieR Jul 2, 2009

    ERRN, he said that because he is also the presidnet of the local NAALCP.

  • Weaker Pelosi Jul 2, 2009

    Sounds as though they will find more bodies if they keep looking. This is scary stuff.

  • nbforrest Jul 2, 2009

    Black sheriff, black victims. Evidently the sheriff likes white people!

  • mom2threecld Jul 2, 2009

    ERRN it's just plain old fashioned racist comments

  • mom2threecld Jul 2, 2009

    RACIST!!!!!!!!!!! i do not know WHY but if ANYTHING involves a black person it's racist. no matter what. i just don't get it. 5 women were murdered. it doesn't matter WHAT COLOR they are, they were murdered and the person who did this should be punished. so if they were WHITE it wouldn't be a big deal i guessaccording to his comments. the naacp is nothing but a bunch of racist people. people are people regardless of race. this article and coments make me MAD

  • Go GT Jul 2, 2009

    Andre Knight never seems to amaze me with the stuff that comes out of his mouth.. 110% racist comment right there- and hey Andre-- how does one get elected to a ward he does not even reside in??? HMMMM????

  • mooremotox Jul 1, 2009

    The reason councilman Andre Knight made that statement is because he is a racist. Everything he is involved in, he always makes it about race. Yes, it does sound like someone is targeting black women and yes, I do hope they find the person who is doing this. Maybe they need to look at the police chief, John Manley. I Hope REAL investigators do get involved.

  • Blue Shirt Jul 1, 2009

    Missing women and bodies being found; the SBI and FBI need to team up and investigate; people need to report suspicious people; serial killers sometime do not have a criminal record and have no DNA on file; there needs to be a search of that area to find more bodies; I think thats too many women to be missing; there has to be common lifestyle habits in these women found and those missing;we could have a situation similar to the Green River killer.