Local News

Friends remember two women killed in Roanoke Rapids

Posted May 9, 2010 5:54 p.m. EDT
Updated May 10, 2010 6:30 p.m. EDT

— Friends are mourning the loss of a Durham school employee and her mother after they were killed late Friday in Roanoke Rapids.

Roanoke Rapids Police Chief Jeff Hinton said Nancy Burgess, 65, and her mother, Maxine McCrary, 92, were stabbed to death in McCrary's home at 311 U.S. Highway 158.

Grief counselors will be available at Carrington Middle School, where Burgess worked as the budget secretary, starting Monday, to assist students and staff, school officials said.

“What a horrific tragedy. It is truthfully a little bit beyond my comprehension how something like this could happen to such a sweet soul,” said Julie Spencer, principal of Carrington Middle.

Spencer said Burgess visited her mother often in Roanoke Rapids. She had recently talked about the presents she had bought her mom for Mother's Day and that she planned to take her out to lunch Sunday.

“I know this past week she spoke very fondly of plans that she was going to spend with her mother for Mother's Day,” Spencer said.

McCrary's son, James, who lives in Suffolk, Va., called 911 Friday evening because the phone at his mother's house had been busy for hours, Hinton said. He told dispatchers that he had been on the phone with his sister earlier in the evening.

"I wanted to make sure they were alright, because somebody came to the back door, and my sister said it was the guy who lives next door, wanting to use the phone," James McCrary said in the 911 call.

Police went to the house and discovered that McCrary and Burgess had been killed, Hinton said.

Officers arrested Tony Maurice Gorham, 28, at an apartment on Oakridge Drive around 4:30 a.m. Saturday. He was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of the two women.

Hinton said Gorham lived next door to McCrary and that robbery appears to have been the motive. Some items, including a pocketbook, were taken from the home.

Burgess had been with Durham Public Schools for more than 25 years. The faculty at Carrington Middle plans to honor Burgess at a staff meeting Monday afternoon.

“This is a loss of not only a wonderful employee, but just a very dear friend, a wonderful role model,” Spencer said. “We all want to be like Ms. Burgess.”

Gorham is being held in the Halifax County jail without bond.  His first court appearance is set for Tuesday.