Investigators dig up new leads in suspected serial killings

By J. Eric Eckard

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Although no new charges against Antwan Pittman have been filed, investigators have turned up more evidence in a string of murders in and around Rocky Mount that date back to 2003, authorities said. Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight is heading up a task force of local, state and federal agents established to look into possible links in the deaths of 10 people and two women reported missing. “In the last 60 days, new leads have developed,” Knight said. “The task force is diligently following up on those leads. I want to assure the public that we are continuing to work diligently on these cases.” Knight would not elaborate on what new clues have been discovered. Nine women and one man have been found murdered over the past seven years in rural areas, mostly in Edgecombe County. Two other women are reported missing, and some investigators have said that the slayings could be the work of a possible serial killer. Pittman is charged with first-degree murder in the death of one of the women — Taraha Nicholson — and authorities said he’s a person of interest in at least five of the other murders. The 31-year-old Pittman, a registered sex offender, was arrested in September, and authorities said his DNA was found on Nicholson’s body. One woman’s body was found in a wooded area behind Pittman’s former residence in Scotland Neck. Five of the women were found along Seven Bridges Road, and at one point, Pittman lived nearby in the Battleboro community. The victims in the case had histories of prostitution and illegal drug use, and Pittman is known to have solicited prostitutes in the past. The lone male victim, Travis Raregus Harrison, 24, was a known crossdresser and had a similar background to the other victims. The suspect’s trial was expected to start on May 3, but both the prosecutor and defense team said they needed more time to review the evidence in the case. And with more evidence coming in from law enforcement officers, the trial could be delayed for months. District Attorney Robert Evans requested the delay at a hearing last month. Evans did not return phone calls seeking a comment for this story. Memorials have been held for the victims in the case, and relatives of Yolanda “Snap” Lancaster and Joyce Renee Durham continue to hold out hope that they’ll turn up alive. So far, the bodies of Nicholson, Harrison, Jackie Thorpe, Jarniece Hargrove, Christine Boone, Ernestine Battle, Denise Williams, Elizabeth Smallwood, Roberta Williams and Melody Wiggins have been found in wooded areas northeast of Rocky Mount.