Suspected Serial Killer Jailed on Murder Charges

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Rocky Mount, NC—A suspect has been arrested in connection with five suspected serial killings, dating back to 2005, in rural areas of North Carolina.

Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, has been charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Taraha Shenice Nicholson. Nicholson’s remains were found in a remote, wooded area near Rocky Mount in March 2009. The 29-year-old had been reported missing the previous month.

Authorities believe that Pittman could have committed as many as four other similar murders, the victims of which were all African-American women. Four of them lived in Rocky Mount, a small town about 55 miles northeast of Raleigh, and are said to have been from an area frequented by prostitutes.

A joint investigative task force into the death has been organized by the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s office, Rocky Mount police and the state Bureau of Investigation. Representatives from all three entities, including the task force’s leader, Sheriff James Knight, attended a news conference in Tarboro to announce the charges against Pittman.

The five women “suffered a similar death,” according to Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley Jr., but few other details have been released. One of the victims was stabbed and beaten, and two of them were strangled.

Besides Nicholson, the four other women whose bodies have been identified include Melody Wiggins, 29, whose body was found in May, 2005; Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, who was found dead in August, 2007; Ernestine Battle, 50, whose remains were found in March, 2008; and Jarneice Latonya Hargrove, 31, whose skeletal remains were found in June, 2009. All of the women’s remains were found near Seven Bridges Road, a rural road which leads northeast from the town of Rocky Mount into Edgecombe County, which is rural and wooded.

Authorities believe that the killer is someone who has a great deal in common with the victims, such as race, socioeconomic level and background. Another woman, Lanessa Williams, escaped from the confinement of a man whom authorities think may be responsible for the murders. According to Williams, she accepted a ride to a friend’s house from a strange man, who kept her captive in his truck, demanded sex and threatened to kill her. She eventually escaped and hid in a ditch until the captor drove away.

Pittman, who is from Rocky Point, is being held without bond.

Manley says the task force is also investigating three missing persons cases and an additional death in the town of Rocky Mount.

 

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