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Help still needed in Rocky Mount women's deaths

Posted March 22, 2010
Updated March 31, 2010

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— Edgecombe County’s sheriff says continued public help is necessary in solving the deaths of at least six Rocky Mount women found dead in a rural part of the county and a seventh in neighboring Halifax County.

“What we need is for citizens to come forth – anyone who knows anything, even though you might think it's nothing,” Sheriff James Knight said last week. “Let us say there's nothing to it. Don't try to decide yourself.”

The bodies of Taraha Nicholson, 29, Jarniece Hargrove, 31, Jackie Thorpe, 35, Ernestine Battle, 50, and Melody Wiggins, 29, were all found in fields within a 10-mile radius of one another over the past four years. The body of Christine Boone, 43, was found this month about 20 miles away in Scotland Neck.

Each woman was black, reported missing and had a history of drug use or prostitution. Family members and friends have said that many knew each other.

A special task force of local, state and federal authorities has been investigating the deaths, as well as the disappearances of two other women with similar profiles, to see if they might be connected.

Authorities have also charged a suspect, Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, with first-degree murder in Nicholson’s death. But they have been relatively quiet about whether he might be suspected in any of the other deaths.

A search warrant returned last week, however, indicates that investigators are looking at Pittman in the deaths of four of the other women.

Boone was found in a wooded area behind an abandoned trailer where he used to live, authorities said.

He was arrested on a driving while impaired charge the same day Hargrove was reported missing after a state trooper found him sleeping in his car 200 yards from where her body was found two months later.

Halifax County investigators were at Pittman’s former residence last week talking to neighbors who knew him. They said they also plan to further search the area behind the home.

Knight declined to comment on any possible involvement Pittman might have in the deaths and whether investigators planned to search any of the residences where he has lived over the past four years.

Investigators do have “thousands of pieces of information,” he said, that they look at on a daily basis but need more information.

"You want to satisfy the citizens and let them know that you are doing all that you can do, but you can't just take a case to the district attorney and not have hard evidence,” Knight said.

“A lot of cases are won on circumstantial evidence, that's true, but a lot are lost on circumstantial evidence.," he continued. "You want to make it a winnable case for the DA to try."

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