Local News

Robbery likely motive for knife attacks at Rocky Mount church

Posted October 18, 2007 11:27 a.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2008 4:21 p.m. EDT

— Crime tape sealed off Lakeside Baptist Church in Rocky Mount after two Meals on Wheels workers were stabbed in an apparent robbery at the church earlier Thursday morning.

Rocky Mount Meals on Wheels Director Debbie Kornegay and Assistant Director Eve Beasley were preparing meals and loading their vehicles shortly after 9 a.m. A man charged at them in the church kitchen and stabbed them multiple times, Rocky Mount Police Capt. Martin McCoy said. Investigators believe someone let the man inside the church.

Kornegay, 58, was pronounced dead at Nash General Hospital. Beasley, whose age was unavailable, remained in critical condition at Pitt Memorial Hospital Thursday night.

"At this point, it appears it is, in fact, random," McCoy said of the crime. One victim's purse appeared to have been rummaged through, but officers were uncertain whether anything from it was missing.

Investigators did find a kitchen knife at the scene, McCoy said, but he was unable to say whether it was the weapon.

About 20 children were in the church day care at the time of the stabbings, but were safe, Lakeside senior minister Rev. Wright said.

"That's a frightening aspect of it. By the time this attack happened, they were in the preschool building," he said. "They were never exposed to any danger whatsoever. The children were never frightened. They were perfectly safe."

Search for a Suspect

Police set up a checkpoint at the intersection of Piedmont and Sunset Boulevard Thursday night in a search for leads. They handed out fliers with a suspect and vehicle description.

"We are working this case aggressively as we do any case here in Rocky Mount," McCoy said.

Police are looking for a black man with a medium complexion and medium-length mustache in his late 20s to early 30s, who they believe has tattoos on both forearms up to his elbows. He is 6 feet to 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighs about 200 pounds and was last seen wearing a short-sleeve, long white T-shirt, white T-shirt wrapped around his head and dark jeans.

Investigators think he might have fled the scene in Kornegay's 2002 charcoal gray GMC Yukon XL with North Carolina license plate PYA-3886. It also has a bright red Outer Banks ferry pass sticker on the windshield above or below the inspection sticker.

Authorities were also searching for a dark blue, four-door sedan that was seen headed east on Western Avenue at a high speed about the same time as the stabbings, police said.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol, State Bureau of Investigation, U.S. marshals and sheriff's deputies from Nash and Edgecombe counties are assisting police in looking for the vehicles. Police also asked that anyone who sees the vehicles to call immediately 911, Twin County Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111 or Rocky Mount Police Department at 252-972-1485.

The church, at 1501 Sunset Ave., faces City Lake, and police asked that anyone who might have been walking along the lake between 7 and 9:15 a.m. to call authorities if they saw or heard anything or have any information about the stabbings.

Church, Community in Shock

Wright said the Lakeside church community is reeling from the stabbings. The pastor and deacons held an emergency meeting on Thursday night.

"Certainly, this is shocking to our community. Why the suspect chose this place or these ladies is unclear," he said. "What remains is that two wonderful individuals who spent their time making certain that people in our community received a hot meal each day were senselessly attacked."

Rev. Scott White, Kornegay's pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd, described her as a "gentle, powerful soul, a woman who lived her faith, not just spoke her faith.

"She knew what was important, and she put it into action with her hands, as well as with her words," White said.

"(It's a) total sinking feeling as far as our church and our community," said deacon Jim Wiggs.

Other churches said they will continue to carry out the Meals on Wheels program.

A worship service in honor of Kornegay and Beasley will be held at noon Friday at Lakeside. All will be welcomed, church officials said.

"It is difficult to respond to a tragedy of this type," Rocky Mount Mayor Fred Turnage, who is also a member of Lakeside. "It seems like across our country, daily, we are hearing of incidents like this either at a school or in this case, at a church. We can't explain it."

"I pray to God that it is isolated, and we never experience it again," he added.

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