Local News

DA 'lending support' in Edgecombe bodies probe

Posted July 16, 2009 4:26 p.m. EDT

— Edgecombe County's top prosecutor on Thursday said his office is making itself available to a special task force investigating several bodies found in a rural part of the county.

"We're in almost daily contact with the task force," District Attorney Robert Evans said. "We're here to lend support, but investigators are taking the lead."

The team of investigators, which includes sheriff's investigators, Rocky Mount police and agents with the State Bureau of Investigation, are probing the deaths of at least five women whose bodies were found in or around the same area over the past four years.

Each of the known victims was black, from Rocky Mount, had a history of drugs, prostitution – or both – and were known to go days or weeks without contact with family members. They had each been reported missing, and many of them also knew each other, family members and friends have said.

A sixth body was also discovered earlier this year, but authorities have not been able to identify it.

Investigators have said little about the case and have not said whether they think the deaths are linked to each other.

"I understand there is public concern about the case, but it's a very sensitive case, and we don't want to say or do anything that could compromise the investigation," Evans said.

Three of the five women – Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, Ernestine Battle and Jarniece Latonya Hargrove – were found at different times in a field on Seven Bridges Road between Battleboro and Whitakers.

Thorpe, 35, was reported missing May 8, 2007, and was found Aug. 17, 2007. Battle, 50, was found in the same area March 13, 2008, more than a month after she was reported missing on Feb. 2. Hargrove, 31, was reported missing May 2 and found June 29.

Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29, was found May 30, 2005, near Nobles Mill Pond Road, an area south of U.S. Highway 64. She was identified after her boyfriend reported her missing on June 2, 2005.

On March 7, 2009, the remains of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, were found on Marriott Road. She had been reported missing on Feb. 22, 2009.

Authorities also found on Feb. 13 skeletal remains of an unidentified black woman along Melton Drive in Rocky Mount. Authorities believe the woman was between 27 to 49 years old.

View Edgecombe County bodies in a larger map