Local News

Survivor Of Moore County Shootings, Stabbings, Fire Remains In Critical Condition

Posted December 20, 2003 4:02 a.m. EST

— A teenager remained in critical condition Saturday, a day after she survived a trailer fire, shooting and stabbings that left four young men dead.

Three suspects were in custody, each charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

The bodies of the four fatalities, who had been shot and stabbed numerous times, were discovered Friday inside a doublewide mobile home on a dirt road outside Carthage, a town of fewer than 2,000 residents about 60 miles southwest of Raleigh.

Firefighters found 15-year-old Amanda Cook lying on the ground about 200 yards outside the burning home, crying for help.

Cook escaped through the mobile home's back door, despite gunshot wounds to her stomach and back, two dozen stab wounds and a slash across her throat, said Rickey Poindexter, a neighbor who stopped to help on his way home from a day of hunting.

"They didn't cut her far enough down that it didn't cut any organs in the throat," he said.

Poindexter said Cook named the chief suspect in the slayings, 35-year-old Mario Lynn Phillips.

Moore County sheriff's deputies arrested Phillips, who lived across the street with his mother.

Witnesses told investigators they saw Phillips flee in a vehicle that was found a short distance away, said Chief Deputy Neil Godfrey.

Officers later arrested Sean Maurice Ray, 24, of Carthage, and Renee Yvette McLaughlin, 19, of Spring Lake. All three were charged with four counts of first-degree-murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, and one count of first-degree arson. They were being held without bail.

Fredrick Ray said his brother, Sean, called the home they share with their mother early Saturday to tell his family he was in jail.

"He said: 'Mario, he shot those four guys. I cut the girl; that was it,'" Fredrick Ray said in a telephone interview Saturday. "He told me he did not do the shooting. He said Mario did the shooting. The only person he touched was the young lady."

Fredrick said his brother did not say what might have prompted the slayings.

Telephone calls to Phillips' home went unanswered Saturday. McLaughlin did not have a listed telephone number.

Danielle Cullen, who has lived on the same dirt road where the killings took place for six years, said she believed the slayings were related to drug trafficking. Poindexter said he had complained to authorities about drug activity, and they had stepped up patrols of the trailer park.

"I believe it was probably drugs because all the boys down there are young, like teenagers," Cullen said. "In the last year, I've noticed a change. ... It just seemed like a lot of partying down that way."

Investigators have not discussed a possible motive.

Cook was in critical condition Saturday at Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, spokeswoman Gretchen Kelly said.

The dead were identified as Eddie Lynn Ryals, 21, who lived in the burned house; Joseph Allen Harden, 19, of Vass; and Carl Garrison Justice, 18, and Harvey Darrell Hobson, 20, both of Carthage.