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Hope dwindles for last of missing Rocky Mount women

Posted January 17, 2011
Updated January 18, 2011

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— The discovery last week of the remains of Yolanda Renee Lancaster in some rural Edgecombe County woods brought a brief moment of relief, then a sinking feeling to Winston Kemp.

For years, he’s thought about what has become of his stepdaughter, Joyce Renee Durham, having often gone online, searching for her name and wondering if she’s out there somewhere.

“I felt, before, there was a chance that she’s still alive, wandering around somewhere,” Kemp said Monday. “Now, (finding Lancaster) gives me doubt about Joyce being alive. It’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Durham, who disappeared in June 2007, and Lancaster were the last of 10 women who investigators believe could be connected to a suspected serial killer.

Authorities arrested Antwan Pittman in September 2009 and charged him in one death. Investigators say he is a suspect or person of interest in many of the other cases.

Although she hasn’t been found, Durham matches the physical description of the other women and shares a similar background. Most of their bodies were found in the same vicinity in Edgecombe County.

In April, the North Carolina National Guard helped search for Lancaster and Durham along a stretch of Seven Bridges Road between the Edgecombe communities of Battleboro and Whitakers after someone discovered the remains of another woman in the area.

The search turned up nothing, and for nearly a year since then, Kemp, who lost his wife five years earlier to cancer, had to face the reality that his stepdaughter was dead three times when skeletal remains were found in the area.

Walter Kemp Hope dwindles for missing Rocky Mount woman

Last Monday, hunters found what turned out to be Lancaster off a wooded path several miles away on Battleboro-Leggett Road in Edgecombe County. It’s unclear how long they had been there.

“It was just a little relief,” Kemp said. “It’s like you build yourself up to a point where you’re like, ‘OK, maybe she is still alive. Maybe she is still roaming around.’ Then you find out there’s another body. Your hope sort of dies.”

Kemp says authorities tell him the discovery of Lancaster will likely trigger a new search for Durham.

“They are going to keep on with their search and probably extend beyond where they started,” he said.

For now, Kemp, who lives with Durham’s daughter – a new mother herself –, relies on the family members of the nine other women for support.

Still, he says, it’s different now, being the only one out of the group not knowing.

“It’s a lonely feeling,” he said.


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  • dlk13ster Jan 18, 2011


    No worries. I'm sure I'm just as guilty of ill-conceived comments and postings; but what separates honest commenters from the average GOLOer, is the ability to realize you've spoken out of turn or inappropriately, and the maturity to apologize when you have.

    And while I don't want to put words in the victims' families' mouths, I'm sure your sincerity is much appreciated.

  • fatchanceimwrong Jan 18, 2011

    dlk13ster: Point taken and appreciated. My apologies for my insensitivity.

  • dlk13ster Jan 18, 2011


    With respect, you're probably right. But it is still somewhat distasteful to make such a comment on a news article about their murders.

    Imagine someone commenting on how combat deaths and brutal dismemberment "come with the choice to be a part of that culture," on an article about soldiers' remains coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Sure, they'd have a point, and yes it's almost certainly true.

    But that still doesn't mean such a comment isn't insensitive and in poor taste, given the context and subject matter.

    Of course, you have a right to your opinions, as well as a right to share them. But please remember that sometimes, there are occasions when certain opinions are best kept to yourself, out of respect for the dead.

    Still, thank you for clarifying your statements.

  • fatchanceimwrong Jan 18, 2011

    dlk13ster: I wasn't condoning the murders because of the environment where they took place, only making an observation about the risks associated with criminal activity.

  • dlk13ster Jan 18, 2011

    "Unfortunately, this comes with the choice to be a part of that culture."-fatchanceimwrong

    And that's probably the very same argument the killer used to justify his actions.

    For my part, I disagree; while these women may have made poor decisions in their lives, NONE of them deserved or merited such a violent or senseless end.

  • MonkeyFace Jan 18, 2011

    that must suck. my heart goes out to each one of their family memebers and to Mr Kemp, your heart is restless, and hopefully soon you will have some kinda closure. one you may not want, but is well needed!

  • dlk13ster Jan 18, 2011

    May these poor women rest in peace.

  • YourMom Jan 18, 2011

    My thoughts and prayers to the family and friends. I hope you find closure soon and comfort in her memories.

  • dwr1964 Jan 18, 2011

    It's gotta suck when you have to begin to understand that someone you love is probably not coming home. I have never had to deal with something like this, so I won't even attempt to say I know how they are feeling, but my prayers are with this family. She is somebody's daughter, aomeone's sister, no matter anything else.

  • howdiditgettothis Jan 18, 2011

    So sad to not have closure. My prayers are with this grieving father, and the other families of the slain.