I’m wondering when these cases are going to get the attention they so desperately deserve:
Body of seventh victim identified
By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram
Monday, October 12, 2009
Authorities on Monday identified a body found earlier this year inside city limits as 33-year-old Elizabeth Jane Smallwood, bringing the known number of Rocky Mount women found dead in similar circumstances in recent years to seven.
Smallwood, a black woman with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse, matches the profile of six other Rocky Mount women killed since 2003.
A task force of federal, state and local investigators has been probing the murders the past several months. Deputies so far have made an arrest in one of the seven deaths.
Of the victims, Smallwood is the only to have been found inside city limits. A prison work crew clearing tree limbs and debris found her decomposing remains on Feb. 13 off Melton Drive. She had been dead for six months to a year before the body was discovered, according to the autopsy. The cause of death has not been determined.
“Smallwood had not been reported missing to the Rocky Mount Police Department by family or friends,” Capt. Laura Fahnestock said. “But through investigative leads, we were able to link her to the skeletal remains.”
The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Chapel Hill identified the body by comparing Smallwood’s medical records to the remains, authorities said.
Rumors of a serial killer stalking poor women have spread through East Rocky Mount the past few months, and in June authorities publicly connected the dots between the unsolved murders of Jarniece Hargrove, 31, Taraha Nicholson, 28, Ernestine Battle, 50, Jackie Thorpe, 35, and Melody Wiggins, 29. Responding to a report in the Telegram, Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight announced last month that 21-year-old Denise Williams’ 2003 murder also is included in the probe.
Investigators won’t say if they believe the murders are linked, but they believe they could be.
Each of the previously identified victims was found in swampy and wooded fields in Edgecombe County, a few miles outside the city, and each was known to have traded sex to feed drug addictions, according to criminal records and family members.
Smallwood had been arrested on a number of occasions since 2001 on drug and prostitution charges, according to criminal records. She had been charged with prostitution as recently as 2007.
Authorities are searching for three missing Rocky Mount women as part of the investigation: Yolanda Lancaster, 37, Joyce Renee Durham, 46, and Christine Boone, 43.
FBI agents are assisting in the investigation.
Authorities in September arrested Antwan Pittman, 31, and charged him in Nicholson’s murder. Investigators won’t say if they believe the Rocky Mount man might be involved in any of the other deaths.
The case, which grabbed national headlines this summer, has shined light on the city’s fight against the illegal sex and drug trade and has inspired a local coalition of community advocates working to raise awareness about murdered and missing women.
A $20,000 reward is offered to anyone with a tip leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call Twin County Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111.