Local News

NCCU Student Buried; Murder Suspect Denied Bond

Posted February 4, 2008 5:31 a.m. EST
Updated February 4, 2008 11:44 p.m. EST

— A judge on Monday denied bond for a former pastor arrested in connection with the death of a North Carolina Central University student whose body was found along Interstate 540 last week.

Robert Lee Adams Reaves, 43, of 19 Birchcrest Court in Durham, was charged Saturday with first-degree murder in Latrese Matral Curtis' death. Motorists found her body near Louisburg Road about an hour before her husband, Darin Curtis, reported her missing on Jan. 30.

During Reaves' first court appearance, in which the judge also appointed an attorney to represent him, more than a half-dozen religious leaders from the community were in court to show their support. (Watch video of Reaves' court appearance.)

The leaders admitted to knowing little about the case, saying they were there to offer their prayers.

"He's innocent until proven guilty, so, we're here to support him and his family," said Bishop William Spain, of The Glorious Church in Raleigh.

"It's a real shock to us all," Spain added. "He's a fine gentleman. That's all I can tell you. He's a wonderful man."

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Reaves knew Curtis, but he has not said in what capacity.

A junior at NCCU, Curtis, 21, majored in administration and management. She was last seen leaving a class on Jan. 29, and, according to her husband in a 911 call, called him about 10 p.m. that night to tell him she was on her way home.

An autopsy showed Curtis died from puncture wounds caused by a sharp object.

Harrison said the investigation is ongoing and that he has not ruled out the possibility of more arrests.

"At this time, I'm not going to say," he said. "But I can say this: We're still actively working this case."

Investigators searched Curtis' Raleigh apartment, her car and her husband's car and spent two days at the site where her body and her white Nissan Sentra were found along I-540 near the Louisburg Road exit.

A flower bouquet and a pink teddy bear had been placed at the site by Monday.

Unanswered Questions for Victim's Family

While Reaves made his first court appearance, dozens of mourners gathered more than 150 miles away in Newport at God's City of Refuge for Curtis' funeral. (Watch video about the funeral and family's response.)

Family and friends remembered her as a young woman with hope, plans and a strong work ethic.

"We just wanted her to succeed," her father, Sherman Jones, said. "And that's what we wanted for her."

Among the mourners was Twan Felds, a member of Darin Curtis' Army National Guard unit who served with him in Iraq in 2004. Felds said Curtis left the military to pursue an education and to get married.

"She was a daughter, she was a sister," Darin Curtis said. "I mean, she was somebody's niece. Most of all, she was my wife. She was my future."

Jones said he was unsure of how his daughter knew Reaves. Her husband said he did not know Reaves either.

"(I) never heard of him, never seen him before," Darin Curtis said. "It's a mystery why."

Suspect's Long Legal History

Court records indicate Reaves, has a long history of criminal and civil charges and convictions.

According to court records, Reaves worked at Ockham Development Group Inc. in Cary as a clinical research associate from July 2006 to January 2007. That's when he was terminated for allegedly making $6,412.95 in unauthorized purchases on his company credit card, according to court records.

Joshua Baker, chief executive officer of Ockham, had no comment.

The company filed a lawsuit against Reaves in August 2007, and in November, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ordered Reaves to pay his former employer $19,069.24 for the charges, plus interest, attorneys fees and $10,000 in punitive damages.

A pastor for more than 20 years, Reaves began his preaching career at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church near Bennettsville, S.C., in the mid-1980s.

He left the church in 1987 after being accused of criminal sexual conduct with a boy, said Pastor Earl Platt, who succeeded Reeves at the church.

Court records also show Reaves was charged with criminal sexual conduct in 1987, in Marlboro County, S.C., and was convicted of third-degree sex charges in 1988.

Reaves served time in jail for that conviction, Platt said.

Reaves then moved to New York City, where he served as pastor at Cedar of Lebanon Baptist Church, in Brooklyn, from 1997 to 2000, the church's current pastor, Costa Smith, said.

Most recently, according to his cousin, Levon Evans, Reaves has served as a bishop at a Durham church. WRAL, however, has been unable to confirm the name of church.

"(Reaves) was energetic. He was a go-getter," Evans told WRAL on Saturday. "He was just, just not a murderer."