Search warrant links Pittman to murders of five local women
By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram
Monday, March 15, 2010
Investigators have reason to believe Antwan Maurice Pittman was involved in the murders of at least five Rocky Mount women, according to a search warrant filed this month by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.
Authorities searched Pittman’s former residence, 98 Nasturtium Lane in Scotland Neck, on Friday after Halifax County deputies found the remains of 43-year-old Christine Boone behind the home earlier this month while searching for another missing person.
According to the search warrant, investigators believe Boone, a Rocky Mount woman missing since 2006, might have been killed at the property.
Pittman is in prison awaiting trial after authorities charged him in September in the March 2009 murder of 28-year-old Taraha Nicholson, one of seven other Rocky Mount women found dead in swampy and wooded fields around the east border of the city since 2003.
Until Monday, investigators and prosecutors had been tight-lipped about what evidence they might have against Pittman in Nicholson’s death or if they believed he might have had ties to the other murders.
According to the search warrant filed in Halifax County this month, authorities relied on DNA evidence to link Pittman, a registered sex offender, to Nicholson’s murder. His semen was found on her remains, the search warrant said.
A few weeks after Nicholson was killed, a trooper with the N.C. Highway Patrol reportedly found Pittman the morning of April 25 in a ditch off Seven Bridges Road sleeping in his car. Pittman had dirt on his boots, the search warrant said, and his pants were unzipped.
It was the same day Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, one of the victims, was last seen by her family. Her body was recovered in June in a field off Seven Bridges Road, about 200 yards from where the trooper said Pittman’s car was parked.
The remains of Jackie Thorpe, 35, and Ernestine Battle, 50, also were found along the stretch of rural farm land and woods a few miles northeast of Rocky Mount.
Pittman grew up in a home near where the bodies were found and worked on a farm along the rural stretch, investigators wrote in the search warrant, and it’s believed he was very familiar with the area.
“Based on the above information, there is probable cause to believe that Antwan Maurice Pittman was involved in the homicides of Thorpe, Battle, Nicholson, Hargrove and Boone,” SBI Special Agent E.D. Smith wrote in the search warrant.
Hargrove’s mother, Patsy Hargrove, was shocked to hear authorities had evidence – albeit circumstantial – linking the accused killer to her daughter’s murder.
“I feel like information has been withheld from us all this time,” Patsy Hargrove said after learning of the search warrants through media reports. “I got sick after hearing it. Why didn’t they tell us they had this evidence?”
Investigators generally don’t release information about evidence if they don’t have enough to press charges, authorities said. Search warrants filed in Edgecombe County last year to search Pittman’s former Rocky Mount residences were sealed by judge’s order.
The silence from authorities made Patsy Hargrove and the other victims’ mothers question if investigators had any evidence against Pittman.
“In the beginning, I didn’t think he could have done all this,” Hargrove said. “But now bits and pieces are being put together, and I don’t have any choice but to think that he did. I’m just praying it will all come out in the open so everyone will find out what he did to our loved ones.”
Talk of a serial killer stalking women has swirled through East Rocky Mount the past few years.
In June, authorities revealed that a federal, state and local task force, led by Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight, had been investigating possible connections between the unsolved deaths of Hargrove, Nicholson, Battle, Thorpe, Wiggins, Elizabeth Smallwood, 33, and Denise Williams, 21.
All of the women were black, had a history of drug abuse and prostitution and moved through the same social circles, according to family and friends.
Pittman had been arrested multiple times by Rocky Mount police in recent years and charged with soliciting for prostitution.
Nash County authorities first arrested Pittman in July after he failed to update his address as a registered sex offender. A month later while still in jail, Pittman was charged with first-degree murder in Nicholson’s death. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Some in the community have called for the 2005 death of Travis Raregus Harrison – a 25-year-old crossdresser found naked and strangled in a field off East Virginia Street – to be included in the multi-agency probe.
Pittman is being held at Central Prison in Raleigh.