Tarboro, N.C. — Winston Kemp is playing a waiting game. His stepdaughter, Joyce Renee Durham, has been missing for almost two years.
“I'm hoping she will show up,” Kemp said Thursday.
The woman, who goes by Renee, would turn 48 on Sunday. She is one of seven open cases of missing African-American women from the Rocky Mount area.
Those cases may become part of a state investigation. The State Bureau of Investigation, Rocky Mount Police and Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office formed a task force after the skeletal remains of a woman were found Monday night in a wooded area off Seven Bridges Road. That discovery was the fifth body of an African-American woman found in the county in four years.
Durham fits the profile, but her stepfather is not worried.
“I think maybe she got into bad drugs, that her mind is shot. Maybe she don't where she is or where she's at,” Kemp said.
He said he believes Durham is alive. “She always managed to take care of herself.”
Since her disappearance in August of 2007, Kemp has cared for Durham’s 17-year-old daughter. She is the reason Kemp believes Durham will reappear.
“My faith tells me that one day she will come back,” he said.
Authorities have found six bodies in Edgecombe County since 2005. Of those, two, including the woman found Monday night, remain unidentified. The second set of unidentified skeletal remains was found by a Rocky Mount clean-up crew in February along Melton Drive.
View Edgecombe County bodies in a larger map
Four bodies have been identified:
- Melody Wiggins, 29, was found near Nobles Mill Pond Road, May 30, 2005.
- Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, was found Aug. 17, 2007.
- Ernestine Battle, 50, of 619 Branch St. in Rocky Mount, was found May 14, 2008.
- Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, of 218 N. Raleigh St. in Rocky Mount, was found March 7, 2009.
Three of the women were found in the woods in the ares of Seven Bridges Road, between Battleboro and Whitakers. Sheriff James Knight said his deputies will step up patrols in that area.
After the task force met Thursday, Knight had no additional information share. He said, “At this time, as far as the task force is concerned, I cannot talk with you or give you information on it at this time.”