Local News

Rich Square Mourns; Investigation, Search for Suspect Continue

Posted July 17, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Days after Rich Square's police chief was murdered, the town is trying to mourn -- but the massive manhunt for the suspect in the weekend killing is impossible to ignore.

Chief Joseph White, 61, was gunned down Sunday during a routine traffic stop in the parking lot of the town's dialysis center. The suspect is still on the run, and the town is anxious for justice.

Officials announced a $16,000 reward Tuesday, hoping someone will come forward with information leading to an arrest. Dozens of officers continue to follow leads, but so far, nothing has panned out.

"We've got as many as 50 to 75 agents and officers still involved with the acutal search and investigative phase," said Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent. "We're running down many leads that have come in."

The 900 people in Rich Square are surrounded by constant reminders of Sunday's tragedy. The grainy composite sketch of the suspect's face is printed on fliers posted on almost every building in town.

"We just can't believe [the suspect] is a local guy, because we don't think a local person would do something like this to our chief," said convenience store owner Ann Drake.

People in Rich Square want the suspect captured -- only then can the healing process really begin.

"We lost a good man -- number-one citizen, number-one chief of our town. He was a good man, interested in his people," town commissioner Clementine Garris said.

As many as two people may have seen the suspect after Sunday's shooting. Their descriptions of the man at the scene led officers to create the composite sketch.

TheState Bureau of Investigation(SBI) is a major player in the investigation, spreading the sketch across the state. SBI special agent Steve Surratt said the state's resources are at investigators' disposal as they try to find the killer.

By Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Vincent said his office had taken at least 50 calls since the sketch was released Monday evening.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Northampton County Sheriff's Department at800-334-3000.