WRAL Investigates

Johnston County personnel join search in Edgecombe County

Posted September 9, 2009 12:22 p.m. EDT
Updated September 9, 2009 10:28 p.m. EDT

— A search and rescue team from Johnston County joined Edgecombe County authorities Wednesday in searching a rural area near N.C. Highway 33.

The joint effort took place in an area near where the body of Taraha Nicholson was found in March. Nicholson is one of five Rocky Mount women who authorities say were reported missing and were later discovered slain within a 10-mile radius since 2005. A sixth woman who hasn't been identified was also found in the same area.

Tammy Amaon, spokeswoman for the Johnston County Sheriff's Office, would not say what the deputies were searching for or whether the search was related to those cases.

Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight also declined to talk about the search.

“Not right now. We will talk later,” he said when asked about the investigation.

“I want to know myself what is going on,” James Sledge said.

Sledge, who resides in the area, said he is concerned about safety.

“I think they (deputies) found another body and they are not trying to tell anyone right now. I'm really concerned because my little cousins are down here,” Sledge said.

A Rocky Mount man is charged with first-degree murder in Nicholson’s death. Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, was at Central Prison in Raleigh Wednesday afternoon, where he was being held without bond.

A special task force of state and local authorities is investigating similarities in the six slayings, as well as the disappearances of three other women who, families say, knew the dead women.

Bodies found in Edgecombe County

In the map below, the blue markers indicate locations where bodies have been found. Wednesday's search is denoted in green.

View Edgecombe County bodies in a larger map

Group returns donated money

The community group MOMS (Murdered or Missing Sisters), formed by families and friends of the victims, has given back a $10,000 donation, spokeswoman Stephanie Jones said. The group had accepted the money from a New Jersey non-profit to be used in their efforts to raise awareness about the investigation.

Jones said media reports about the money led to the belief that the money would be distributed directly to families of the missing and the dead. That was never the intent, Jones said.

The money was to be used for billboards and public service announcements to keep the names and faces of these women in the public eye, she said.

Disappointed by the reaction of the families to the largess, Jones said Wednesday that she has returned the money.