Local News

Tensions heightened with report of missing woman

Posted July 21, 2009 11:07 p.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2009 6:34 a.m. EDT

— Some people are wondering if a serial killer is lurking in Edgecombe County after the bodies of five women were found in a rural area and three other women remain missing.

Tensions heightened Tuesday as another Rocky Mount woman, fitting a similar description of the victims, went missing.

Mary Michelle Williams, 40, of 801 Long Ave., was last seen around 7 a.m. Sunday when she stopped by a friend's home at 1606 Old Wilson Road to pick up her 12 year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

However, the children were staying with their babysitter at 808 S. Tillery St., police said. When Williams never arrived at that location, the friend called police.

Capt. Laura Fahnestock, commander of the police department's Criminal Investigations Division, said police located Williams just before 8 p.m. Tuesday. She was unharmed and stated she did not want her family to be aware of her location, Fahnestock said.

"Her kids have been number one in her life,” said Darryl Charles, the son of the woman who filed a missing person report.

Williams' father said authorities quickly began searching for his daughter since her profile matched that of the other slain or missing women.

"They wanted to jump on the case and locate her as quickly as possible,” Larry Williams said.

The father said his daughter had gone missing for days at a time before, but due to the unsolved slayings, he was more concerned this time.

"The reason they were concerned is because they did not want her to end up like the other five women,” Larry Williams said.

The remains of Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, 31, and Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, were found in a field on Seven Bridges Road between Battleboro and Whitakers. Hargrove, who was reported missing in May, was discovered last month; Thorpe, reported missing in May 2007, was discovered three months later.

Ernestine Battle, 50; Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29; and Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28; were also found in the same area.

A sixth body discovered in February has yet to be identified, and three other missing women with similar descriptions and backgrounds – Christine Marie Boone, Renee Joyce Durham and Yolanda Renee Lancaster – remain missing.

Mary Michelle Williams' background had similarities to the slain women, such as she is known to frequent hotels and drug areas, police said.

Charles said he knew some of the slain women and was worried Mary Michelle Williams had suffered the same fate.

"That was my mother's main concern for calling, because other women have gone missing around Rocky Mount,” Charles said.

Meanwhile, Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office, Rocky Mount Police Department and State Bureau of Investigation are part of a task force looking into the slain women cases. The Edgecombe County District Attorney's Office is also lending support to investigators.

Anyone with information about the cases is asked to call the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office at 252-641-7911.