WRAL Investigates

Edgecombe murder suspect appears in court

Posted September 2, 2009 12:05 p.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2009 6:31 p.m. EDT

— A Rocky Mount man appeared briefly in court Wednesday morning, a day after authorities arrested him in the slaying of one of several women found dead in rural Edgecombe County over the past four years.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, said very little as he appeared on the first-degree murder charge in the death of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, whose remains were found in a wooded area in March.

A District Court judge appointed Pittman two defense attorneys and set a probable cause hearing for Sept. 16. Pittman was at Central Prison in Raleigh Wednesday afternoon, where he was being held without bond.

Nicholson is one of five Rocky Mount women whom authorities say were reported missing and were later discovered slain within a 10-mile radius since 2005. A sixth woman who hasn't been identified, was also found in the same area.

A special task force of state and local authorities investigating each of the cases, as well as the disappearances of three other women, charged Pittman Tuesday after more than 6,000 man-hours on the investigation.

They wouldn't say if Pittman is a suspect in any of the other cases.

A look at his residential history in Rocky Mount, obtained from court records, indicates that he lived within 3½ miles from all of the known victims at the time they were reported missing, as well as three women who remain missing.

Pittman's first residence, following his release in prison in 1997, was at 104 Daniels Ave. in the Battleboro community, the same area four women, including Nicholson, were found. At one point, he also lived at 727 Columbia Ave., less than a mile from Melton Drive, where the remains of the unidentified woman were found in February.

Nicholson's mother, Diana Nicholson, as well as family members of some of the other victims, was in court for Wednesday's appearance. She chose not to talk about the arrest but expressed gratitude and relief Tuesday that one had been made.

"I would just like to know why he killed my daughter," Nicholson said. "My daughter is such a sweet girl. She wouldn't harm nobody."