Local News

Images of missing, murdered women appear on billboards

Posted July 28, 2009 5:43 p.m. EDT
Updated July 28, 2009 6:45 p.m. EDT

— The images of five missing and murdered Rocky Mount women now flash on billboards in Rocky Mount. The signs were placed on Tuesday to help raise awareness about the murders, which are being probed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A community group, MOMS (Murdered or Missing Sisters) used fish fries and motorcycle rides to raise money for the three electronic billboards. The signs show each woman individually and then screen with all of them. A question mark represents a sixth unidentified victim.

“It lets me know that somebody does care,” said Diana Nicholson, mother of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, whose remains were found in March 7 on Marriott Road in Edgecombe County. The 28-year-old had been reported missing on Feb. 22.

Jackie Wiggins has waited nearly two years for answers in the murder of her daughter Jackie Thorpe, whose body was found Aug. 27, 2007 behind a house on Seven Bridges Road, between Battleboro and Whitakers in Edgecombe County. The 35-year-old had been reported missing on May 8, 2007.

“Questions and doors that were closed before are now being answered and opening,” Wiggins said on Tuesday.

Members of the community group told WRAL News that the billboards are a reflection of the heightened community awareness. Five bodies of African-American women have been found in the county in four years.

In addition to Nicholson and Thorpe, the bodies of Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, 31; Ernestine Battle, 50; and Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29, were all found in the same area.

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

Both mothers say they were recently interviewed by members of the FBI. Wiggins said the agent told her the agency does have some “outstanding leads.” She said the conversation gave her new hope, especially after hearing authorities do have some possible suspects.

Lamar Advertising gave the community group a significant discount on the billboards. The signs will stay up for at least a month. Supporters said they hope to raise more money to keep them up longer, if needed. Two of the billboards are on US-301 and the other is near the intersection of Winstead and Sunset avenues.