Category Archives: North Carolina

How To run your own Cold-Case – Top Ten (this one goes to eleven)

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Doreen Prior made an interesting comment recently that she was equally dialed in to unsolved cases in the Montreal region from the 70s. If you don’t know Doreen, she has been advocating longer than me for a resolution to the unsolved death of her sister, Sharron who was murdered in 1975. Doreen knows this process better than anyone. As well, Bill Widman has been actively seeking to solve the murder of his friend, Debbie Key. In the interest of helping other families who may be trying to conduct their own investigations, Doreen, Bill and I offer these top ten suggestions for conducting your own cold-case investigation:

1.   Information Management – The Internet: If you can afford it, get a subscription to Lexis-Nexis. This will allow you to data mine old newspapers back to the early 80s. There’s gold in them hills.

2.   Information Management – Your local library: Most major libraries keep copies of all regional newspapers on microfiche. For Theresa’s case I was able to have the Provincial Library in Quebec mail me microfiche of old newspapers like the Montreal Star, Photo Police, Allo Police to my local library in North Carolina! I know Doreen Prior also accessed local libraries for Sharon’s case. Newspapers offer you good information about activities in the area of investigation leading up to, and immediately after any murder.

3.   Google is your best friend: I have Google Alerts set up for all key words associated with my sister’s death (names of regional towns, suspects’ names, the name of each regional police force). This is a good way to stay a step ahead of anything that may be relevant to your investigation.

4.   Accessing public records: Things like medical records and autopsy reports… these are public information and readily available from your local medical examiner or coroner.

5.  Makes friends with the appropriate law enforcement agency: In many circumstances a case grows cold due to perceived ineptitudes of the investigating police force. Despite the frustration you must ultimately make peace with the investigating force. Ultimately they are the only body that can bring the case to justice. Despite friction, you must work to find an understanding. This doesn’t mean you can’t continue to challenge the force, just realize that you must retain balance. Crime scene reports? Evidence? Primary information? All of this is in the hands of the investigating force. You must make amends if you hope to gain access to this information.

6.   Make sure your case is registered in the appropriate national police cold case database:   In the U.S. they use either ViCAP or CODIS. In Canada the system is called ViCLAS (in French SALVAC) .  Even though these databases are maintained by the RCMP and FBI, it is the responsibility of regional forces to be trained on their use and to enter the data. Contact your regional police force to ensure your case is in the system.

7. Psychics: Useful? As secondary evidence, possibly. Just realize that anything  psychic / medium offers is not admissible as evidence. It can be a great resource (myself and Bill have used them), but be aware of their limitations. And don’t get strayed into kooky theories: you can see patterns in any amount of randomness. Remember that some things are a coincidence.

8.   Network: Read everything. The internet is an incredible resource. Become familiar with advocacy and justice initiatives. Make friends, get educated, attend conferences.

9.   Publicity: The media can be a great tool to get your story out. Remember one thing: ultimately they are exploiting you, so feel free to exploit them. “If it bleeds it leads”… and the stories the media usually are attracted to in cold cases are something gruesome or something very personal ( perhaps too personal for a crime victim… I always hated when they asked me about “closure”). Be professional, cautious and guarded. Don’t offer up anything you feel is crossing a line. You have a right to say, “no, that’s too far” with these people. Also, don’t feel bad if they don’t want to cover your story. I have spent many hours offering up angles to media (suspects, new information, a personal-interest moment, a tidbit that is relevant to a current case), if they aren’t interested, don’t take it personally. Move on. It’s a business.  One of the main reasons myself, Doreen and Bill started blogs was to control the distribution of information. So you can start one too! That too is media attention!

10.   Get support: Guess what? You’re only human. And very quickly you will reach a burnout threshold. Get help. Find something positive other than this cold-case that gives you energy ( a hobby, your family, a sport, your shrink). We’ve all been to the bottom. It’s no fun, but we will support you on your journey back up. One of the best things I did? Made friends with fellow victims and investigating colleagues on Facebook. At first this seemed counter-intuitive: I wanted to isolate my personal life from my cold-case life. In the end it was the right decision because it was healthy to see these people without the victim stigma, in a normal light: families, loves, interests.

11.  If all else fails: Contact the Vidocq Society, a group out of the Washington area comprised of retired forensic and investigative experts dedicated to solving old cases. Slightly pretentious, but if you’ve exhausted numbers 1 – 9 at this point you have nothing to lose. A word of caution: Vidocq will only consider your case if you have support from your local police jurisdiction (so no coming here if you’ve got a beef with how the police screwed up your case).

Go forth and solve!

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Beyond This Place

There was a great piece on NPR yesterday about how musician Chris Butler bought Jeffrey Dahmer’s boyhood home in Bath, Ohio.

The Dahmer house

The Dahmer house

Of course this got me thinking about I had bought the former home of Andrew Dalzell, suspected of the 1997  murder of  Deborah Key.  As I was driving with my kids, I then had to tell the whole darn story to them; the scary things that went on there, the nightmares, the power of coincidence and fate… in short, everything I wrote in that piece years ago called Bad Dream House.

The Dalzell house

The Dalzell house

Well it’s Halloween, what better time for a ghost story. If you have the time and enjoy a good spook I recommend you listen to the NPR piece, and you can read my account of living in the Dalzell residence here at Bad Dream House (enough time has passed that I can somewhat laugh about it now).

But did you know I wrote a sequel? It was part of a chapter for a book that was never published. It’s about how the local police later brought a psychic to the property, to see if she could lead them to Debbie Key’s body. So here it is -it’s called Beyond This Place:

A Post Script: Because I saw the movie Paranormal Activity last night, so to those of you who have seen it:  I once found a photo of a kid sticking out of the insulation in the attic at the 500 Robin Road house, just like in Paranormal Activity.  I always assumed it was a photo of Andrew Dalzell, but who knows?

Beyond This Place

Sometimes late at night when I’m tired the phone will ring, and for a half second I’ll think it’s her. Other times I’ll wake up in the morning and forget that she’s gone. Hey, I think I’ll call up my sister. Doesn’t she live in Winnipeg now? Oh right, she’s dead. One day I call up my Dad, “Dad, didn’t investigators believe at one point that Theresa had actually run off to New York, and met up there with Vlad?” He couldn’t remember. “Well, if you couldn’t identify the body, how’d you know it was her?” I keep peppering him with these questions. Living the experience vicariously through his eyes. I won’t be satisfied until I’m resting down in that white casket beside her.  He reminds me that they had asked him to authorize a dental confirmation. “Why’d they ask me to do that?” he says. “I knew what it would do to her face. Why’d that have to be my decision?”  I console him. It had to be done. There was no other way. Besides, we both agree, it would have been just like her to fake her own death.  You were always wondering what was coming next with that one. You could just picture it – all this grief and heartache, and she’d be down in Borneo drinking a pina colada with her boyfriend, Vlad.  Years later you’d spot her in the crowd with D.B. Cooper protesting the WTO in Seattle.  Sipping absinthe in a Paris café with Ira Einhorn. A nineteen-year-old hippie-beatnik Solomon Gursky – spreading mischief, waiting for the ravens to gather.  At heart I’m a realist. I don’t harbor illusions about the afterlife. The end wasn’t a tiki bar with a drink in hand; it was a muddy ditch where your body putrefied like a bloated sponge.

I live in a house once inhabited by a psychopath.  My wife desperately wants to move. She’s says we’ve outgrown it, but I think it’s a little more than that.  I want to hang around just a while longer.  Each day there are a dozen little things reminding me that Deborah Key – the young woman who was most likely murdered by the former owner of our home – is still missing.  Working in the garden, I’ll unearth some artifact belonging to the former owners.  Inevitably, it will be some weapon or instrument of torture – an arrow, a spear, the broken blade from a sword. One time I found a gigantic hunting knife with brown stains on the blade. I turned it in to the police. Later I learned the police had lost it. Another time I found the remains of a dismembered Barbie doll.

The Dalzells – that was the former owners’ name, the Dalzells – never bothered to forward their mail.  I still get stuff of theirs. Letters from the IRS, notices of loan defaults, catalogues from companies who specialized in medieval weaponry.  My favorite was a brochure from a guy who looked like Bill Gates who promised that anyone could have any women they ever desired through the power of hypnotism.

It would be funny if I didn’t know that a woman had probably died at the hands of this sick-fuck.

Last year my wife started a business; a children’s resale shop in downtown Carrboro. Carrboro is a little bedroom community of Chapel Hill in North Carolina.  My wife’s shop is cute. She has a lot of nice stuff.  Little Wonders and Baby Gap.  She targets customers who can’t afford – or are too embarrassed to pay  – $75.00 for a onesie from Gymboree.  As fate would have it, my wife rented the space where the bar Sticks and Stones was formerly located. The same Sticks and Stones where Deborah Key was last seen alive. Every day after work I pull into the parking lot to pick up the kids.  I always park in the spot where Deborah was last seen kissing Andrew Dalzell against the hood of her car. Deborah’s mother placed a small memorial on the spot with flowers and a plaque. It’s nice that it’s there to remind me. Just in case I forgot.

Not long ago I got another call from our local police. Deborah Key’s body still had not been recovered. Chief Henderson wanted to return and search our property.  This time they weren’t bringing a cadaver dog; they were bringing a psychic.

I pulled into our driveway one afternoon.  The now familiar sight of police vehicles greeted me. There in my driveway was an officer sucking a slurpy. Why was there always a cop nursing a slurpy? He indicated the back of the property and muttered, “they’re back there.”  I wandered to the back of the lot. There was John Lowe, the detective from last summer, and police chief Henderson. They were conversing with a short lady. It must have been the psychic. I exchanged greetings.  Lowe introduced the psychic. Sid. Just plain, old Sid.  Lowe pulled me aside confidentially; Thanks for letting us come back to your beautiful home, bla-bla-bla; It’s totally changed since the last time we were here, you would never know that a psychopath used to own it, bla-bla-bla… Sid was walking the property to get a feel for the place. She didn’t think Dalzell strangled Key here; that had happened somewhere else.  Sid was trying to pick up on the energy. They weren’t looking for a body, now they were searching for Deborah Key’s aura.

“What makes you so certain she was strangled?” I said.

This had always bothered me. They had always talked as if they knew she was strangled. Like they had some secret piece of information.  Detective Lowe looked embarrassed. There was no proof of strangulation, he said. But another psychic – one they had consulted the previous year – had told them Key was strangled. And “Sid” had confirmed it. I didn’t know who I felt sorry for most; Sid, the detectives, or Deborah Key. That’s when I noticed the film crew, and things got really embarrassing.  There, beyond Sid’s shoulder, stood a cameraman and I guy with a boom mike.  I thought it was a Ghostbusters thing; they film the site, then take the footage back to the lab and look for “ghosty” images.  Chief Hendo clarified the situation,

“We didn’t have the budget to afford Sid’s fee, so we agreed to let her film everything.”

Apparently Sid was all the rage back in Colorado, where she came from. I was told she had even worked on the Ramsey case. So who exactly didn’t work on the Ramsey case? Now she was preparing for her prime time debut. Sid had development money. She was putting together a pilot. If I played my cards right, I might wind up on television. It was only then that I realized how self-conscious Sid looked in front of the camera.  She kept mugging it up; playing the part of someone pretending to be a psychic.  Sid flashed me her best “CSI” furrowed brow, then delivered her line,

“Was this pile of debris always here?”

“No, that’s my compost heap. I made it myself.”

She grabbed a handful of dirt and sniffed the air.

“I keep getting birds. Birds…”

No shit, lady. We live on Robin road. The place vibrates like a fucking aviary. You can’t hear yourself think for all the chirping. Wait. It wasn’t dirt in Sid’s hand. It was a ring – a man’s ring. She was fingering it like some sort of talisman. Lowe offered,

“We found it in the driveway two years ago. It belonged to Dalzell. She’s seeing if she can get a reading off it.”

Sid held the ring up to her eyes and studied it. Then she turned to the detective,

“What’s this on the side there? Does this look like blood to you?”

I looked at the ring. Actually it did look like blood. A small brown spot of what could have been very old blood. Sid looked puzzled,

“Did you guys ever have this tested?”

There was a long silence. Hendo and Lowe looked at their feet, hoping the question would go away. It didn’t. It just lingered in the air.

The afternoon dragged on. I wanted them to go away, but they insisted on looking inside the house.  At one point the cameraman shouted at me, “Just act normal! Just pretend that you’re walking into your house!” What the hell else was I going to do? Before they left, the cameraman gave me his card; in case I ever needed any work done. Anything really; weddings, bar mitzvahs. Colorado really wasn’t as far away as I thought!

Detective Lowe pulled me aside one last time, “You should really get Sid to help you out with your sister.”

Like that was going to happen.  I don’t understand this “psychic” business. They always seem to be able to see everything that is totally extraneous.  They do everything but the one thing police ask them to do: solve the crime.  The Dube case used psychics to try and find the body. They never did. Ten-year-old boys found Manon’s body. The psychics were a waste of time. This was no different.  Lowe continued to gush about Sid,

“She had a vision that Deborah’s body was in a place with woods and a lake.”

“Well did she take you to this place?”

“No, she couldn’t find it.”

Uuugghh! How useless is that! I was losing patience with these people. Me and a psychic? Yeah, right. The chances of me contacting Sid were remote to say the least.

Not that I didn’t try. After she went back to Colorado, I called. Several times – she just never returned my call. Her TV pilot probably got picked up. She was no doubt by now a big celebrity -a famous television star.  Who was I to turn my nose up at Sid? I was desperate. She could do no worse than the police had done.

One day a friend called and told me about this psychic from California. Not Sid, another psychic. Only she didn’t call herself a psychic, she was a medium. She talked to the dead.  This made me tingly. How did she do it? I wondered. My friend said that that was the interesting part. You didn’t have to visit her. She did it all over the phone.  What do you mean she did it on the phone? How could she pick up on your behavior, your “tells”, as it were? That was the thing, it wasn’t a gimmick; my friend had done it. It was amazing.  She had a conversation through the medium with her dead relatives. It was creepy. There were details this medium knew about my friend’s life that only people who had “passed” could have known – little pieces of knowledge that no one could find through deception. My friend came to a conclusion. Either the medium was really a psychic and she was reading your mind; or it was for real, and she talked to the dead.  My friend suggested I arrange for a consultation with my sister. The medium charged two hundred dollars an hour. I said I’d think about it.

Driving home from work. Stuck in traffic. I take the slow lane. I’m in no hurry. Listening to Electro-Shock Blues. “You’re dead, and the world keeps spinning, take a spin through the world you left.” Thinking. How her eyes would dance. A knowing smile. Like the cat that ate the canary. A real wisecracker.  Thinking. What had she taught me? Not much. Shoplifting was at the top of the list. “…cause I don’t know how to let you in, and I can’t let you out.” The two of us at a toy store. A red super-ball. A dare. My descent into kleptomania. A real daredevil, that one.  High risks and kicks. Caffeine and adrenaline. I can’t think of one lesson she ever handed over to me.  I pass the Dean-Dome. Traffic starts to move again. I run with the flow. Remember. You have to stop to pick up diapers. Thinking. Should I call the medium?

At mid-life I cut my losses and became an accountant.  The reasons were simple. Numbers were easy. There was only one way to add them up. While the world whirly-gigged; this was something I could control.

Evening and I’m sitting with my wife in the kitchen. She’s reading the Pottery Barn catalogue; I’m paying bills. I ask her about the medium. Should I do it? She says go for it, and leaves the room.  I go to the bathroom and look in the mirror. I have gray hairs. I’m 39; she’s still my big sister. One day I’ll be an old man, but my sister still will be 19. My 19-year-old big sister.  She would kill me if she knew how I had changed. I work for the government. A bean counter. It’s not a pretty sight. I stuff the checks in the envelopes and look for my roll of stamps. Thinking. If I hand deliver my mortgage payment I could save $4.44 a year on postage. Oh boy. Forgive me for becoming such a dullard.

On the weekend I phone my parents and ask them about the medium. They say, why not? I talk with my brother. He can’t think of a reason not to do it either. Curious. I was hoping one of them would stop me. At Barnes & Noble I “inadvertently” wind up in front of the New Age section.  My medium’s staring at me from the cover of her book. What’s going on here?

The following week I take my family to a government finance conference at the beach. The Carolina shoreline. Calabash. Free HBO.  I skip the afternoon seminar, Business Ethics – what you need to know and slip back to our room.  My kids are watching television. They should be down at the beach, but they’re huddled around the tube watching Home Box Office. It’s free. Some documentary with a bunch of old people is on.  What is this? Where are the cartoons? Were at the beach; where’s Spongebob? This is depressing.  I look at the screen and yelp. There’s my medium on TV!

“Dad, you should see this lady, it’s really cool – she can talk to the dead!”

The following week I mailed my $200 check. The medium had rules. Send the payment and your telephone number. She’ll contact you to set up a reading. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery. I also had rules. I sent just the check, and my phone number at work scribbled on a piece of paper. No cover letter. No information of who I was or what I wanted. If she was going to talk to the dead, she would do it clean.  I went to her website to see what else I could learn.  Two hundred dollars bought me one hour of her time. No speakerphones or cell phones. And I was allowed to tape record the reading. I was instructed to stay open about the reading. I was not to have heightened expectations about who would be contacted. “You may have your heart set on contacting a specific person”. No shit. “Another relative or friend may step forward, sometimes a cherished pet…”

One thing was certain: I wasn’t paying $200 to talk to the dead cat.

A couple of weeks later at work the medium called me up. I was so flummoxed, I practically jumped out of my chair. Was she reading me now?  Did she know how I was going to die? I was expecting some California valley girl type; she sounded like my mom.  Almost too normal. What was the catch?  She gave me a date and time to call her in a couple of weeks, and recommended I read a book on channeling. That was it. She looked forward to the reading. Until then, stay “open”.

I read the book. Why not?  It was different.  I wasn’t going to start surrounding myself with crystals, but it was okay.   If it did anything, it helped me to relax. This was happening in the fall; around the time police were deciding whether or not to investigate. I was pretty tense. To use a hockey analogy, I was definitely “gripping the stick too tight”.  There was this channeling exercise. The book suggested that you ask yourself a question, then see what answer came back to you. Then do the same thing again, only this time channel your energy first – polarize your intentions, or something like that.  I did it the first way and asked, “how do I solve my sister’s murder?”, I got nothing.  I did it again, but this time “channeled” and asked, “How do I solve your murder?” I got back an answer. “Look at everything”. That was it. “Look at everything”. Not a voice, a feeling. But not my instinct, it was something else. Look at everything. It was spooky.

As the date of the reading approached, I tried to find some rational person who didn’t buy into this nonsense.  Well, not really. If I really wanted that, there were the square-pegs at work. They already thought me eccentric. Did I really wish them to think I was insane?  My wife was getting excited, “Do you think you’ll get to talk back? Is it like The Exorcist, where the medium will talk in devil-voices?” I didn’t know.  Did I really think I was going to talk to my sister?

Finally in October, the day had arrived. I closed my office door and checked my tape recorder. Everything set.  I tried to relax, but there was no need. I was relaxed.  Over the weeks I’d come to convince myself that this was perfectly normal.  La-la-la, Come in to the office. Grab some coffee. 10:00 am staff meeting. 11:00 am meeting with the County. Lunch, followed by 1:00 pm conference call with your dead sister. I took a deep breath and dialed the medium.  Rather than explaining what transpired, I’ll just let the tape roll in the next chapter.

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Missing Women Rocky Mount – Serial Killer

Well this is interesting:

“Smallwood’s brother in prison for serial killingsBy MIke Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram

 

Friday, October 30, 2009

The brother of one of seven Rocky Mount women found dead since 2003 is a convicted serial killer two states away, officials in Lexington, Ky., confirmed Friday.

Robert Franklin Smallwood Jr. was sentenced in November 2007 to three life sentences after pleading guilty in the slayings of three women from December 1999 to April 2006.

Robert Smallwood, the 35-year-old brother of Elizabeth Jane Smallwood, is considered Lexington’s first-ever serial killer.

The revelation comes a day after dozens of Rocky Mount residents gathered to remember Elizabeth Smallwood, one of seven Rocky Mount women found dead under similar circumstances since 2003.

Robert Smallwood, 33, pleaded guilty in 2007 to nine separate counts connected to the deaths of Doris Roberts in 1999, Sonora Allen in 2002 and Erica Butler in 2006, as well as the rape of Viola Greene, a retired school teacher, in 2003, all in Kentucky.

Each of the murder victims in Kentucky was known to have traded sex to feed drug addictions, according to criminal records and 2007 media reports.

Roberts was found dead in her apartment, apparently from strangulation and suffocation, according to the Fayette County coroner’s office. Allen also died of strangulation and was found dumped in a parking lot. Butler appeared to die of injuries caused by blunt trauma; she was found inside her home.

Robert Smallwood is being held at a high-security prison in Sandy Hook, Ky., according to Kentucky Department of Corrections officials.

It wasn’t immediately clear how long Robert Smallwood has been incarcerated on the charges. Rocky Mount police found his sister, Elizabeth Smallwood, dead in a thicket earlier this year off Melton Drive. Elizabeth Smallwood, known by friends as a drifter, wasn’t close with family, and it is unclear how she arrived in Rocky Mount a decade ago.

Rocky Mount police were not immediately available to comment.”

Check back at www.rockymounttelegram.com or read Saturday’s print edition for more on this story.

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Rocky Mount Serial Killer – Psychology Today

October 28, 2009, Law and Crime

Searching for the Perfect Victim

What the media chooses to cover.

In its most recent issue, Newsweek has a story  on an ongoing string of unsolved murders in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The victims in these cases have been poor, Black, and–in some instances at least–have had criminal records. I spoke with Krista Gesaman, the reporter who wrote the piece, and though my quotations in it are among the most obvious and least interesting aspects of the story, it’s worth a read.

The thrust of Gesaman’s article is that various characteristics of the victims may help explain why the story has received far less attention than other, seemingly less serious (or, at least, less widespread) crimes of recent memory. Unlike the stories of missing women like Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy, Natalee Holloway, and Annie Le, these North Carolina cases have flown under the radar for the most part. The Rocky Mount women don’t seem to fit the mainstream media model of sympathetic victim–they aren’t educated, upper-middle class, attractive young women.

The story explores the same issues of race, class, and media coverage that I blogged about a few months ago. Here’s a brief excerpt from the Newsweek piece:

The victims in Rocky Mount–which residents describe as a “typical Southern town,” and is about 40 percent white and more than 50 percent black–were different [than Peterson, Levy, Holloway, et al.]. They were all African-American, many were poor, and some had criminal histories including drug abuse and prostitution.

“If it was someone of a different race, things would have been dealt with the first time around; it wouldn’t have taken the fifth or sixth person to be murdered,” says Andre Knight, a city-council member and president of the local NAACP chapter. “All these women knew each other and lived in the same neighborhood; this is the sign of a potential serial killer. When it didn’t get the kind of attention it needed, it made the African-American community frustrated.”

 

The article doesn’t focus exclusively on race, and it’s worth checking out in its entirety. If you ask me, the moral of the Rocky Mount case is that when it comes to media focus, surprise and relatability count for a lot. It’s a surprise when a boy supposedly flies off on a weather balloon; it’s a surprise when a suburban private school has a student shooting. We’re less surprised by the shooting in an urban school or neighborhood that we really don’t expect to be that safe in the first place. And, accordingly, we get less worked up by violent incidents in such locales, numbed a bit by low expectation to begin with.

And relatability counts too. When the victim of an apparent crime seems like she could be someone we know from school, work, or the house next door, that story hits home harder. Most of the mainstream media is targeted towards the same “mainstream” audience, and so certain victims become more newsworthy than others. For instance, it’s no coincidence that American news outlets always go out of their way to tell us the number of American casualties in a foreign disaster, in addition to the total numbers involved–the story grabs our attention more when it involves people just like us.

Sure, there are exceptions to these tendencies, as I’m sure many readers will be quick to note. But overall, some victims get more coverage than others. And as a general rule, race, class, and even attractiveness seem to factor into these decisions of media focus, even if those who write the stories and produce the segments assert otherwise.

In the end, media representations shape but also reflect how the populace at large sees the world. So this is more than just a media-related issue.  After all, in many cases they’re simply giving us the news they know we’ll tune in to.

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Missing Women – Rocky Mount / Edgecombe County

I know I use the term “Missing Women” rather  loosely when referring to the 6 identified bodies that have been found in Rocky Mount / Edgecombe County North Carolina. “Missing Women” was the term originally coined to identify the 60 – 70 prostitutes who disappeared from Vancouver’s East side in the 1970s-80s.  They literally vanished. Eventually, Robert Pickton was accused of their murders and was sentenced to a handful  of the killings (having disposed of their bodies on his pig farm).  “Missing Women” became a larger metaphor for the manner in which society treated these victims as translucent (think Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and the marginalization of the lower strata).

In the case of Rocky Mount I use the term in the same context; these women are missing; society does not see them; it only acknowledges their presence as prostitutes, drug addicts and general low-lifes. It is an age old practice of blaming victims for their outcomes, then abdicating societies responsibility to do anything about it (thus the lag to form a task force and lack of media coverage.)

The situation in Rocky Mount is so disturbing because it so closely echoes what happened in Vancouver (and what is happening along the Highway of Tears in British Columbia). Have we learned nothing?

Well we better start learning or the cost to tax payers will be in the millions with the reforms that will (very slowly) come in the wake of what is brought forth (very slowly) in the disclosure of justice. Not to mention the endless public hand-wringing and blame that will-out.

 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Victims of domestic violence were remembered in a candlelight vigil on Thursday night in Rocky Mount.

My Sister’s House, a support organization for local victims, remembered 61 victims who were killed statewide in the last year as a result of the abuse.

The event drew about 50 people to the first floor of the Rocky Mount City Hall.

This year, none of the fatalities was in Rocky Mount.

Over the past eight years, candles were blown out to remember all of the victims. But this year, only one candle was lit and blown out at the end of the event.

My Sister’s House executive director Meredith Holland said the numerous candles being blown out symbolized a finality of the deaths.

One candle carries a different meaning, she said.

“We wanted this to be more positive so people can move forward with this,” she said. “We don’t want people to be happy, but we also want them to feel there is something we can do about this (violence).”

The group was asked to remember the women whose deaths are being investigated to see if there are ties to a potential serial killer. Rumors of a serial killer stalking poor women have spread through East Rocky Mount the past few months. 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. Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight announced last month that 21-year-old Denise Williams’ 2003 murder also is included in the probe.

Three of the victims were clients of My Sister’s House at one time, said Linda Jones, the board president of the organization and a victim’s advocate for the Rocky Mount Police Department.

The group also was asked to remember 37-year-old Martha Alford. The local resident is in critical condition after being set on fire by a man last month.

Police arrested Anthony Earl Brown, 44, after he allegedly poured rubbing alcohol and threw a match at her to ignite a fire. Alford is being treated at the Jaycee Burn Center at N.C. Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill.

Jones said that domestic violence is no longer a private matter between couples.

“It’s the impact it has on business because of lost time and tardiness and loss of productivity in the workplace,” she said. “And most people killed in the workplace are going to be women, and it’s going to be domestic-violence related.”

As an example, she pointed to a recent shooting in Carthage, where Robert Stewart is accused of shooting up a North Carolina nursing home. He was reportedly going after his estranged wife during a rampage that killed seven residents and a nurse tending to their care.

The bloodbath ended when a police officer shot and wounded Stewart in a hallway.

“Children who tend to come from violent homes tend to live violent lifestyles as they grow older, so we’re talking about a vicious cycle of domestic violence,” Jones said. “They are more apt to affiliate with gangs, and the list goes on. And so it does have an impact on all of us, and there are things we can do as a community to address that.”

During the vigil, Jones said that she got involved in domestic violence causes after seeing a woman being beating by a partner in a parking lot 24 years ago.

“For the next 24 years, I got to know this woman,” she said. “I saw in that parking lot that night she is a daughter, a sister, a mother, a grandmother. She is rich and poor, educated and uneducated, employed and unemployed. She has children who witness the abuse and are sometimes abused themselves.”

Jones said one out of four women and almost 8 percent of men report being victims of intimate-partner violence at some point in their lives.

“Even if you’ve never been a victim of domestic violence, the odds are that someone in your family or you’re standing besides tonight has been a victim,” she said.

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Carolina Forest Shooting

Not North Carolina, but close enough:

 

A 16-year-old male student was fatally shot this morning after an altercation with a resource officer at Carolina Forest High School, officials said.

Trevor Varinecz, 16, an 11th-grade student, was pronounced dead at 9:34 a.m. today in the emergency room of Conway Medical Center, said Horry County Coroner Robert Edge.

An autopsy is set for Saturday morning at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, he said.

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Rocky Mount Serial Killer

The mother of one of the victims in the Rocky Mount Missing Women case says that it’s a slow justice process as the recently formed task force works to go over the cases. I love Patsy Hargrove’s attitude when she states of  Anwan Maurice Pittman currently in custody as a “person of interest”  in the murders,  “I don’t want this man charged with nothing if he didn’t do it,” Hargrove said. “We want the right person convicted.”

That is such a good attitude. In the case of my sister’s murder, Theresa Allore there have been many people to come forward as potential suspects. In some cases it was tempting -after so many years – to blame them, blame anyone for her death.  I have even seen people try to implicate people with whom they had a personal vendetta – it didn’t matter that they had nothing to do with Theresa’s murder; they were bad people in that 1970s era in the Eastern Townships, so let them be blamed for the crime.  Not only is that bad police work, it’s bad for the soul. I hope Ms. Hargrove continues to show this level of patience; it’s not easy, but it’s healthy:

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — The mother of one of six women found dead in rural Edgecombe County within the past four years says she is still waiting to hear about a possible connection in the cases.

Patsy Hargrove said Thursday that it’s been more than a month since she has heard from investigators looking into the death of her daughter, Jarniece Latonya Hargrove.

Still no answers for slain woman's momWATCH VIDEO
Still no answers for slain woman’s mom

“They don’t have enough evidence to pinpoint my daughter and the rest of them,” Hargrove said.

Last month, a special task force investigating Hargrove’s death and the others, arrested Anwan Maurice Pittman, 31, and charged him with murder in the death of Taraha Shenice Nicholson.

Investigators won’t say if Pittman is a suspect in any of the other cases, and Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight has refused to comment on the case.

Each of the victims was black, had a history of drug use, prostitution or both. Five had been reported missing before their bodies were discovered within a 10-mile radius of one another. Family members and friends of the victims have said many knew each other.

The task force is also investigating cases of three more missing woman who fit the same profile.

Investigators have found no signs of bullet or stab wounds on any victim. Three autopsies could not identify the cause of death, and the other women were beaten or strangled to death, according to autopsy reports and family members.

Families like Hargrove’s, meanwhile, are left wondering and waiting for justice.

“I don’t want this man charged with nothing if he didn’t do it,” Hargrove said. “We want the right person convicted.”

Pittman, who was arrested Sept. 1, is being held at Central Prison in Raleigh until his trial.

Prosecutors have said they won’t seek the death penalty because there were no aggravating factors to qualify the case as a capital crime.

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