WRAL Investigates

Man arrested in one of six Edgecombe slayings

Posted September 1, 2009
Updated September 2, 2009

— A special task force of state and local authorities investigating the slayings of six women found in rural Edgecombe County said Tuesday that its probe would continue, despite the arrest of a Rocky Mount man in one of the deaths.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, whose last known address was 219 Anderson St., was charged Tuesday with one count of first-degree murder in the death of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 29.

Mother: Son incapable of Edgecombe slaying Mother: Son incapable of Edgecombe slaying

Nicholson was reported missing to Rocky Mount police on Feb. 22, and her remains were found March 7 on Marriott Road in a wooded area off Seven Bridges Road. An autopsy found she most likely was strangled.

"While there is a resolution in the death of Taraha Nicholson, we are going to continue our investigative efforts to work on those four unsolved cases in Edgecombe County, as well as the suspicious death case," Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Those unsolved cases – Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, 31, Ernestine Battle, 50, Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29, and an unidentified female body – stem from discoveries over a four-year period in the same region.

Hargrove, Battle and Thorpe were found in the same area as Nicholson off Seven Bridges and Old Battle roads. Wiggins was found a few miles away near Noble Mill Pond Road, and the unidentified body was found on Melton Road just outside the Rocky Mount city limits.

Citing the sensitivity of their investigation, authorities declined to comment Tuesday on what evidence might have led them to Pittman or whether they were looking at him in any of the other cases.

Pittman, who was already in jail on charges stemming from an Aug. 12 arrest in Nash County, has a criminal record that includes attempted first-degree rape. In 1994, he pleaded guilty in that case to a lesser charge of indecent liberties with a child. The North Carolina Offender Registry says the child was 2 years old.

He was also charged in 2007 with soliciting a prostitute, but that was dropped because the arresting officer left the force.

Each of the known victims had histories of run-ins with police, involving drugs, prostitution or both.

Court records also show Pittman spent the past 15 years in Rocky Mount and the Battleboro community, where several of the victims were found. At some point, he lived within 3½ miles of all the known victims.

He also lived less than a half-mile from Christine Marie Boone, one of three missing women with similar descriptions and backgrounds.

Joyce Durham and Yolanda Renee Lancaster are also missing, and investigators have been looking at their cases, as well, they said Tuesday.

Arrest brings relief, disbelief and hope

News of Pittman's arrest brought mixed reaction Tuesday.

Nicholson's mother, Diana Nicholson, heard about it on the news, as authorities were on their way to her home to let her know.

"I don't have any words to explain it. I'm just happy they got whoever did this to my daughter," she said.

Investigators gave Nicholson no details about Pittman or the circumstances surrounding the arrest, but she said she hopes her questions will be answered as the court process moves forward.

"I would just like to know why he killed my daughter," Nicholson said. "My daughter is such a sweet girl. She wouldn't harm nobody."

Pittman's mother, Gloria Pittman, meanwhile, said she heard of her son's arrest from his girlfriend, who had been visiting with him in Nash County, where he was jailed on charges of driving with a revoked license, driving without an operator's license and failing to register as a sex offender.

"I think deep down in my heart, he's not capable of doing nothing like this," Gloria Pittman said. "I truly believe he did not do what they're saying he did."

Pittman said her son and his girlfriend had been living with her for the past eight months and that he was a "creature of habit" who worked at Perdue Foods in Lewiston and spent his time at home on his computer, writing rap music and watching TV.

Perdue Foods spokeswoman Julie DeYoung said Antwan Pittman worked at the plant from May 13, 2008, until July 14, 2009, when he was fired after not showing up for work for three consecutive days.

"(Authorities) just want to pin (the crime) on somebody," Gloria Pittman said. "(They) take a long time, they ain't found nobody. They just decided they wanted to get him."

For family members of other victims, Antwan Pittman's arrest brought hope.

"My heart reaches out with joy, tears of happiness, because one has been captured," Hargrove's mother, Patsy Hargrove said. "I don't know whether there's any others or not, but hopefully this one did it all. Just tears of joys and happiness, because someone has been arrested for what has been done."

Investigators said the arrest came after more than 6,000 man-hours and follow-ups on more than 300 leads but that they are still seeking the public's help.

"We still need your assistance in these investigations," Manley said.

He urged anyone with information about the cases to contact the Twin County Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111 or the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office at 252-641-7911.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • JS82084 Sep 2, 2009


    The family could have very well tried their best to change their family member, but you can't change a person. They change on their own terms, when and IF they want to.

  • Professor Sep 2, 2009


    If this is the right man for these murders, then I hope he will received Life in Prison without parole.

  • newwake Sep 2, 2009

    I just love the fact that the mother of the suspect thinks police just went after him so they could arrest somebody. Yes they just pick someone out of thin air and say POOF, you're now charged with murder. Dang folks, they have to establish probable cause even to get a warrant.

  • DLG Sep 2, 2009

    Deathrow: The families may have done all they can with their love one and can do no more for them. All these women are adults and new exactly what they were doing. These families did not turn their backs on them because of what they are doing. Unless you have a grown woman who is doing God knows what in the streets you can not possibly know what the families are doing about it.

  • rebekah816 Sep 1, 2009

    "Cannot be quiet. Learn something from the Professor which will make you more brighter and knowledgable. Lol"

    Umm, maybe you should learn a bit of grammar and spelling before you ask someone to learn something from YOU!

    Something just doesn't sit right with this, to me. He may very well be the person that is responsible for the deaths of all these women, but till we hear more, I'm a bit sceptical. *shrugs* We'll see, I suppose.

    *And before I'm accused of having no experience, yes, I do. I was a good ways into a Criminal Psychology degree when life and finances intervened and I had to give it up, unfortunately.*

  • twc Sep 1, 2009

    I'm happy to hear that law enforcement in that area seems to be making some progress. I will stick by opinion that after the second body was found in the same general location that flags should have been raised; most definitely after the third body. Too many victims here before these cases were given the attention they deserved.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Sep 1, 2009

    Our prison system is so weak! clynns1014

    Professor: "Yes especially when they have innocent people locked up and the guilty is still walking the streets."

    And where are ALL of the innocent people you speak of? If you took the entire US Prison Population, what percentage of them are innocent? I think you, and MANY others, would be shocked to find out that the innocent are barely a drop in a bocket of a quadrillion drops.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Sep 1, 2009

    JS82084: "And even if you feel like the women don't deserve respect, their families do."

    Sorry. But if the family cared enough, they would have straightened out their family member. I don't believe the family deserves anymore respect than the woman living the life.

  • Professor Sep 1, 2009

    Just be thankful they are making progress and be quiet.

    Cannot be quiet. Learn something from the Professor which will make you more brighter and knowledgable. Lol

  • Professor Sep 1, 2009

    Our prison system is so weak!

    Yes especially when they have innocent people locked up and the guilty is still walking the streets.