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Victim's sister: Authorities may have lead in Edgecombe slayings

The sister of one of five slain women in Edgecombe County says investigators might be looking at a possible suspect in the case.

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ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Authorities looking into the unsolved slayings of at least five Rocky Mount women over the past four years could be working a possible lead, according to a victim's sister.

Pepita Hargrove's 31-year-old sister, Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, was found in June in a wooded area off Seven Bridges Road, near Rocky Mount.

Hargrove said Friday that a family friend told her investigators have been asking people about the last person who might have been seen with her sister.

"(The friend) said that they were going around showing a photo of a gentleman, and he was a black guy," Hargrove said. "I asked about what he looked like and they said he was a slim black guy, older guy."

Hargrove said that an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation denied her request to see the picture.

"All she told me was that she had some suspects," Hargrove said. "She wouldn't tell me how. She just said that once an arrest is made, they would notify the family."

Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight declined to discuss details about the case Friday but said that the investigation is progressing. Investigators have generally remained quiet about the investigation.

A special task force consisting of Edgecombe sheriff's deputies, Rocky Mount police officers and SBI agents are looking into the slayings and whether they might be linked. Special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Behavioral Analysis Unit are assisting.

Hargrove's remains, as well as those of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28; Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29; Ernestine Battle, 50, and Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, have been found in the same region of Edgecombe County since 2005. A sixth body discovered in February has yet to be identified.

Each of the known victims was black, from Rocky Mount, had a history of drugs and had a history of run-ins with the law. Each was reported missing before their bodies were discovered.

Three other women with similar descriptions and backgrounds – Christine Marie Boone, Renee Joyce Durham and Yolanda Renee Lancaster – remain missing.

Meanwhile, New Jersey nonprofit Kefalas-Pinto Foundation is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the slayings. The organization also donated $10,000 to the Rocky Mount-based community group Murdered or Missing Sisters after its founder saw the story in the news.

"I really want to say thank you," Hargrove said. "You know at least somebody cares."

MOMS, made up of friends and family members of the slain and missing women, says it will use the donation to pay for billboards in the Rocky Mount area, including one near a local mall.



Mike Charbonneau, Reporter
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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