Local News

Vigil held for slain Edgecombe County women

Posted July 19, 2009
Updated July 20, 2009

— Hundreds held a candlelight vigil at a Rocky Mount park Sunday evening for five women whose bodies were found in a rural area of Edgecombe County and for three other missing women in the area.

Vigil to raise awareness of unsolved deaths Vigil raise awareness of unsolved deaths

A group of residents, friends and relatives of the victims, organized the event at Martin Luther King Jr. Park as part of a campaign to draw attention to the deaths

Some attendees said they think law enforcement is not giving enough attention to the cases because the victims were black and had a history of drug use and prostitution.

“It doesn't matter what color or where you're from. Everybody's life is important,” the vigil's organizer, Zenier Wiggins, said.

“They were our friends. They were good people. They might have made the wrong decisions, but they were good people,” said Stephanie Jones, who knew two of the women – Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, 31, and Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35.

Their remains were found in a field on Seven Bridges Road between Battleboro and Whitakers. Hargrove, who was reported missing in May, was discovered last month; Thorpe, reported missing in May 2007, was discovered three months later.

Ernestine Battle, 50; Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29; and Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28; were also found in the same area.

A sixth body discovered in February has yet to be identified, and family members of three other missing women with similar descriptions and backgrounds – Christine Marie Boone, Renee Joyce Durham and Yolanda Renee Lancaster – are worried.

"It has been hard. Every time, when the phone rings in my house, my grandma rushes to it because she thinks it's my mother,” said 9-year-old Joshua Marshmon, Lancaster's son.

“I just try to be strong for them. I try not to let them see me get upset. But it is hard,” said Joshua's grandmother, Juray Tucker.

The family members have organized the group MOMS – Missing or Murdered Sisters. It aims to draw attention to the unsolved cases.

“Regardless of what lifestyle they have, these are people with mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts. Most of all, they are loved,” said Willette Battle, Hargrove's cousin.

The group held two fundraisers this weekend in an effort to purchase a billboard ad with the women's photos.

“People are scared. People are mad. People want to know what they can do to help,” Wiggins said.

The Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office, Rocky Mount Police Department and State Bureau of Investigation are part of a task force looking into the case. The Edgecombe County District Attorney's Office is also lending support to investigators.

“I just feel like the person who's doing this is among us. We probably see him every day. Something needs to be done about it,” Battle said.

Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight attended the vigil. He told the crowd that investigators are working hard to solve the cases and that they need the public's help.

"They can help us. Tell us the truth, tell us the truth so my mom can be found," Tucker said.

"When is this going to stop? When is this going to end?" Battle asked.

Anyone with information about the cases is asked to call the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office at 252-641-7911.


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  • FoxtrotUniformCharlieKiloakaCALM Jul 20, 2009

    So very sad. Just think the murderer is still walking among all of you.

    You dont know that, they could already be in jail on another chare.

  • Professor Jul 20, 2009

    This is not a "race-thing". Ladies we need to take care of each other.

    It is when the black missing or murdered women is seldom mention like they do the white women. All should be equal in notifying the public.

  • Professor Jul 20, 2009

    So very sad. Just think the murderer is still walking among all of you.

  • seaturtlesrule Jul 20, 2009

    Ladies remain easy targets (no matter what their station in life, or how far they have fallen) ... it's usually the ladies that end up attacked and murdered in a field somewhere. Race has nothing to do with it, men are (in most cases) stronger than women and carry guns in this society. No woman is safe jogging alone or going to WalMart
    alone at night (or in the daytime!).

    Gentlemen used to look out for ladies...hold the door for them...treat
    them with respect...now we're easy targets! Anywhere ~ Everywhere.

    This type of incident (serial murders) has happened in Wilson in the past several times. The victims were caucasian...usually drug-abusers, but not always.

    This is not a "race-thing". Ladies we need to take care of each other. Be alert, less trusting, get a dog you can handle and possibly a weapon...even if it's just pepper spray.

    God bless and help us all~~~

  • SOCLOSE Jul 20, 2009

    UNCalum05 - you are so right about the pic's they "choose" to use. There are better pics available, and when MOMS has enough money to fund the billboards, there will be better looking photos of the ladies.

  • whatsupwiththat Jul 20, 2009

    wondering if these were white women in north Raleigh - would the coverage be different?

  • GravyPig Jul 20, 2009

    There will always be someone who feels that the police could be doing more. I'm sure they are doing everything they can reguardless of race or lifestyle.

    With no witnesses and only a dumped bodies to search for evidence on, you probably will not see a quick progression of this case. I'm sure the news coverage might slow down how often the killer does what he does. I can certainly see the reseblence that these women share. Hope they catch this guy.

    Ms. Turner, slow down a bit. I don't agree with Death Row alot, but what he said was that the victims were by trade or addiction putting themselves in harms way. He didn't say that they deserved it. Of course they don't deserve it, but their lifestyle is what puts them in play for this serial killer. If the killers type was thin active blonde light skinned women, then you would most likely see ladies jogging dissapear.

  • FoxtrotUniformCharlieKiloakaCALM Jul 20, 2009

    "It's amazing living in Wake County and have not heard anything about this until now. Edgecombe County is not that far away."

    you must have been under a rock for a while now, welcome to the world!

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Jul 20, 2009

    0 Tolerance aka whatever, please re-read my post. You mis-quoted my post. I NEVER said anyone deserved to die. But I DID say that their cases aren't getting much coverage because their drug and prostitution lifestyle put them in a very risky position. And this usually leads to bad results.

  • vote4changeASAP Jul 20, 2009

    There was a lead last week, posted in an article on WRAL.

    A tall, skinny, black man who drove a small, black chevrolet pickup with "Chevrolet" in big letters on the tailgate.

    A woman came forward who was picked up and threatened by this man.