July 13th, 2009
11:24 AM ET

Searching for a serial killer?


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/13/art.crime.thorpe.rocky.mount.jpg caption="Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, was found killed in 2007 – she is one of six women found dead along Seven Bridges Road since 2005."]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

Police are investigating whether a North Carolina country road may have become the dumping ground for a serial killer - a man one woman believes could have given her a terrifying ride she will never forget.

Since May 2005, the remains of five women have been found near the Seven Bridges Road outside of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The road snakes northeast out of town into rural Edgecombe County.

Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley Jr. believes the women's deaths are related. "They seem to have some connection," he said.

Lanessa Williams of Rocky Mount believes she narrowly missed joining the ranks of the slain women, saying she is not sure whether a man who offered her a ride to a friend's house last year is responsible for their deaths.

The longer the two drove, the more she felt a sense of danger, said Williams, 38. The man - who she described as thin and African-American, with a mustache and glasses - rarely spoke and "looked crazy."

"He kept on going and he rode through lights and he wouldn't let me get out," she told CNN. Eventually, her fears were confirmed when he demanded sex.

"He told me that if I didn't do what he wanted me to do he was going to kill me and throw me in the river." The man eventually stopped his truck in a dark wilderness area, she said.

When he got out, she bolted and ran away. "I laid in a ditch and stayed there for a while," she said. "He was riding around looking for me."

Police are talking to Williams about her experience. She told authorities she noticed something strange - that the large block letters saying "Chevrolet" on the back of the man's truck appeared to be painted on.

All five of the slain women were African-American, authorities said. Four lived in Rocky Mount, which is about 55 miles northeast of the state capital, Raleigh.

According to a statement from the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office, they were:

– Melody Wiggins, 29, whose body was found on May 29, 2005.
– Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, whose body was found August 17, 2007, behind a house on Seven Bridges Road.
– Ernestine Battle, 50, whose remains were found in a wooded area on the road on March 13, 2008.
– Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, whose remains were discovered March 7, 2009.
– Jarneice Latonya Hargrove, 31, whose skeletal remains were found June 29, 2009 in the woods off the road.

Manley said it appears the women "suffered a similar death," but authorities are not divulging further details, including the cause of the deaths.

Edgecombe County Sheriff James L. Knight is leading the investigation, working with Rocky Mount police and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. The three agencies have created a joint task force to investigate the unsolved killings.

Knight is asking the public to be vigilant. "Watch for vehicles if they are on a path or stop along that roadway, and give us a call."

To offer information, contact the sheriff's office at (252) 641-7911.

For more crime coverage go to cnn.com/crime.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Trish

    This is terrible, Rocky Mount is a great town to live in. The cops should have notified the public when the number of victims hit to three which is the number that tells officials they have a possible serial killer in the area. It shouldn't matter whether the victim is black, white, blue or whatever, it shouldn't matter if the victim is a prostitute or a teacher, point is, the victim is a human life who has a mother, father, is a sister, or aunt or cousin or granddaughter or wife. No matter what condition their life was in no one should have to face the fate these women did and we as citizens that pay our police departments wages have a right to know when our safety and the safety of our families is at stake.

    July 13, 2009 at 9:06 pm |
  2. Van

    It`s so sad everyone thinks these women were on drugs and that they were prostitutes. Does it even mater what they did.? This type of crime against poor marginalized people never gets the attention it deserves because everyone blames it on drugs or their lifestyle. Their lives should not be judged at all but the killer who caused their deaths certainly must. I hope he is caught and brought to justice soon.

    July 13, 2009 at 8:54 pm |
  3. Tonya

    I hope that they find this killer so he can't go on killing innocent women who are leaving behind children and families.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  4. Veronica

    I live in this city and there was nothing said about these murders until our major news station aired it on television. The chief of police, edgecombe county sheriff, etc. didnot notify the community of what was going on. If they would have, then maybe we could have saved the lives of maybe 2 of the women. I remember when the meals on wheels volunteers got killed and injured, they closed the whole city off and you couldnt leave without them searching the cars. Plus they had it on the front page of the paper. But they dont care about the serial murders because of the color and occupation of these women. This is the kind of city we live in. What happened to equality?

    July 13, 2009 at 7:31 pm |
  5. Hembree

    I think the time has come to appoint a new Warden!

    July 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm |
  6. Sherri Parker

    they couldnt respect this girl enough then to put her prison or jail picture up. I was told she was a very pretty young lady but her life went wrong. Did you do this so the public wouldnt be scared, well they need to be. Because it starts off with girls like her and end up with anyones family members. I as scared. It is a serial killer in my town. We need help.

    July 13, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  7. Mary Beth Haguewood

    I think it all goes back to drugs, which is so sad. If only these youg women had never used drugs, they would be alive today. It breaks my heart that any woman in America has to stoop to "selling her body" to support an ongoing drug habit. Plus, so many of these young ladies have children. This is so sad, so tragic. May they rest in peace.

    July 13, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  8. Paul

    I cannot remember the last time that I saw someone hitchhiking, either male or female. I live in a Boston suburb and it was always very rare to see women hitchhiking, but there would be some men. I never picked anyone up. I'm sure that among all the ones I saw, were some decent souls, but I had a wife and two children and wasn't about to be foolish enough to take any kind of chance that would have meant they would be visiting me in a cemetery on Father's day rather than making my favorite meal.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  9. Debbie

    This really struck me:

    "She told authorities she noticed something strange — that the large block letters saying “Chevrolet” on the back of the man’s truck appeared to be painted on"

    That would be a great way to confuse a casual witness regarding the make of the vehicle used in the crime. Having seen "Chevy", most women would not realize they were actually in a Ford, or Toyota.

    July 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  10. brittany

    ummm thats sad

    July 13, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  11. Elizabeth, Greenville, NC

    Thank you so much for highlighting this story! It seems as though local authorities are perhaps, overwhelmed by these murders.

    July 13, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  12. Linda

    The article said 30 YEARS left on their sentence. In regards to the serial killer in NC. I don't live too far from Rocky Mount ... hopefully the local law enforcement has had a sketch artist draw a composite of this man and put it out there on the news.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  13. brandon

    i wish they would have said which one was caught so residents know how to adjust their behavior. like if the rapist is still out there people know not to go places alone – safety in numbers right?

    July 13, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  14. Anna

    It says they had 30 YEARS remaining on their sentences. I read the article when it was posted and it said the same.

    This is also not an article about the escaped prisoners. You should post where it is appropriate.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  15. Alyssa

    Rachel...wrong news story.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  16. Jeff Bulduc

    What I don't undertand is how this could happen. Why do the guards there even get paid.

    July 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  17. writingmomma

    You know, I have read many articles of serial killings of African-American and Hispanic women in the last 20 years. These killings span from Louisiana to Mexico, to Iowa. There isn't a trace of who these killers are. It just sickens me to know that someone would carry that much hatred in their hearts for one of God's greatest creations. The woman is a gem to be cherished. It is the woman that brings life into this world. It is the woman that teaches, nurtures and cares for even those that turn out to be monsters in our society.
    How sad that someone would do something to all of these women. Lives cut short because of pure hatred.
    My heart goes out to the families of all these murdered women. May God comfort you all.

    July 13, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  18. marnie

    because the system su.cks

    July 13, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  19. Rachel


    I read this article this morning regaridn a prison breakout of three "very dangerous men". 2 murders and a rapist. What I dont understand is that if these men are so dangerous to the public why did they only have 30 days left on their sentence???

    July 13, 2009 at 9:57 am |
  20. Cindy

    Strange case indeed. You would think that now a days with so many people out and about who are crazy that people wouldn't be hitch hiking anymore...but I guess not! Luckily Lanessa escaped without being harmed. Hopefully with her help and with tips from others this man will be caught before he kills again.


    July 13, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  21. Teresa, OH

    Usually the women are younger than these poor ladies when a serial killer works. I'm glad the one gal got away with her life and with some good details. However, it's odd that she got in a car with this guy in the first place and then later says : “looked crazy.” Crazy people offer strangers a ride in the first place.

    Lanessa had some unique details and it sounds like this is the same guy. Where did Lanessa say she first ran into the guy? On the road? in a bar? in a parking lot?

    July 13, 2009 at 9:38 am |