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National Guard aids in search for missing Rocky Mount women

The governor called on the state National Guard to help search for two missing Rocky Mount women who are part of a larger investigation into the deaths of several other women.

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ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Gov. Bev Perdue called on the North Carolina National Guard Tuesday to help a special task force search for two missing women who are part of a larger investigation in Rocky Mount.

About 100 soldiers with the National Guard searched around Seven Bridges road near Whitakers, where the remains of five women have been found since August 2007.

The action comes at the request of Edgecombe Sheriff James Knight, who said Tuesday that investigators believe the remains of Yolanda Renee Lancaster and Joyce Renee Durham could be found in the same area.

The special task force of local, state and federal authorities will be searching throughout the week.

“Having more boots on the ground will help law enforcement agencies cover a larger area and speed up search efforts,” Perdue said in a statement.

In all, the remains of eight women have been found over the past four years – seven in rural Edgecombe County and one in Halifax County.

Each was black, had a history of drugs or prostitution and had disappeared. Family members and friends have said that some of the women knew each other.

The most recent discovery came March 27, when investigators recovered the skeletal remains of Roberta Williams, 40, approximately 20 yards inside a wooded area off Seven Bridges Road. Williams was never reported missing but was last seen in spring of 2008.

Lancaster, 37, was last seen Feb. 5, 2009; Durham, 47, was last seen in June 2007.

Authorities have arrested Antwan Maurice Pittman in one of the cases, and a search warrant returned last month in Halifax County indicates that investigators are looking at him in at least five of the cases.

Crews have previously searched in a 1-mile radius of where each body was found, but Tuesday's search was the first massive search of the entire 13-mile stretch of road, Knight said.

"The searches we were doing were for evidence and also for any one of the other victims that may be out there," Knight said.

Still, the timing of the search brings questions for Lancaster's mother, Juray Tucker, and Rocky Mount city leaders.

"It concerns me that it took this long," Tucker said. "It's just a blessing to get some help."

Rocky Mount City Councilman Andre Knight said he and the other women's families pushed for the search.

"It should have been done much sooner than this, but we are happy to see our voices are being heard."


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Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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