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Investigators try to identify human remains found

Investigators say it could take a week to identify skeletal remains found Saturday in an Edgecombe County area where the bodies of other Rocky Mount women were discovered.

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BATTLEBORO, N.C. — Investigators say it could take a week to identify skeletal remains found Saturday in an Edgecombe County area where the bodies of other Rocky Mount women were discovered.

Ryan Page said he discovered the human remains around 1:23 p.m. off Seven Bridges Road, between Battleboro and Whitakers.

“A few of the bones were lying around here,” Page said Sunday while revisiting the area. “It was kind of crazy seeing something like that out here."

Within a 10-mile radius of that same area, the bodies of Taraha Nicholson, 29, Jarniece Hargrove, 31, Jackie Thorpe, 35, Ernestine Battle, 50, and Melody Wiggins, 29, were found over the past four years.

“It was a nice area out here, and it's kind of been ruined by all the bodies being dumped out here,” Page said.

Each slain 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 discovery of Christine Boone's body. The 43-year-old woman was found this month about 20 miles away in Scotland Neck.

Two other women, Yolanda Lancaster and Joyce Durham, are also missing from the area.

The missing women's families were notified Saturday about the discovery of the remains.

“The first thing that hit my mind was Lord, please don't let it be my baby,” said Juray Tucker, Lancaster's mother.

Lancaster has been missing since February 2009. Authorities said both missing women have similar profiles as the other Rocky Mount women and that they are considering a possible connection.

Page said he also found a bracelet beside the human remains Saturday. Tucker said investigators had her look at the bracelet, but she didn't recognize it.

She said she hopes the remains found Saturday do not belong to her daughter.

“That she's still alive. I keep that hope. I won't lose that hope,” Tucker said.

Authorities have charged 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.

Records show Pittman also once lived near a wooded area off Seven Bridges Road where remains of three of the slain women were found.

A North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper also arrested Pittman for driving while impaired and driving with a revoked license after finding him along Seven Bridges Road on April 25, 2009 – that same day family members last reported seeing Hargrove, according to the warrant.

Hargrove's remains were found on June 29, 2009, about 200 yards from where the trooper said Pittman was parked.

Thorpe's remains were found Aug. 17, 2007, in the same area along Seven Bridges Road. She had been reported missing in May 2007.

Battle's remains were found in the same area on March 14, 2008. She had been missing since February 2008.

Anyone with information about the slain women or the human remains found Saturday is asked to call the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office at 252-641-7911 or Rocky Mount Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111.

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Beau Minnick, Reporter
Geof Levine, Photographer
Minnie Bridgers, Web Editor

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