Local News

Families of murdered Rocky Mount women gather to mourn

Posted January 22, 2011 7:07 p.m. EST
Updated January 22, 2011 10:54 p.m. EST

— Yolanda Renee Lancaster, one of 10 Rocky Mount women at the center of an investigation into a suspected serial killer, was remembered Saturday in a memorial service.

Families of the other eight women whose bodies have been found and one woman who remains missing, the tears shed for Lancaster are familiar.

"My daughter was the third victim," said Jackie Wiggins, Jackie Thorpe's mother. "You can express it by the tears, but no one can actually feel that hurt."

Thorpe disappeared in 2007.

The community gathered to say goodbye to Lancaster at 2 p.m. at Whitehead Funeral and Cremation, 2129 Lawrence Circle, in Rocky Mount. Lancaster, 37, had been missing for nearly two years when hunters found her remains Jan. 10 in some woods in rural Edgecombe County.

She disappeared in February 2009 after an argument with her boyfriend, said her mother, Juray Tucker. But after a few weeks, she said, Tucker became worried. Normally, Lancaster would at least call to check on her two young children, whom Tucker has raised since they were infants.

Like nine other women who have disappeared from Rocky Mount since 2006, Lancaster had a history of alcohol and drug abuse – habits that Tucker said her daughter developed after she began sneaking out of the house in high school.

"After you do everything that you can do to raise them the right way, when they grow up, you got no more say. They choose their own way," Tucker told The Associated Press in an interview last year.

Authorities have charged Antwan Maurice Pittman with murder in the death of one woman found in the area, and investigators say he is a suspect in several of the other women’s deaths.

A tenth woman, Joyce Renee Durham, is still missing.

Her stepfather, Winston Kemp, struggles to keep hope alive.

"It makes you feel that not even my stepdaughter is alive," Kemp said.

Carolyn Whitehead, the funeral home director who hosted Lancaster's memorial, said the families deserve an end to their pain.

"The young man that's in jail right now, if he did not kill some of the girls or all of the girls, I beg the person that has done this to come forth," she said. "Please stop the pain."