Authorities continue to investigate the murder of community activist Johnny Cunningham, whose body was found next to his truck Thursday morning in the driveway of his home in the 3000 block of Old Battleboro Road after Edgecombe County deputies conducted a welfare check.

Detective Lt. Wilson Muse of the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that investigators are pursuing a lead in the case. The day before, he said there was a person of interest, although no arrests had been made as of mid-afternoon on Friday.

Muse said the 60-year-old Cunningham was shot at least three times with a firearm of still-unknown caliber. He said the size of the weapon and the number of times Cunningham was shot will not be known until autopsy results are received.

The public was asked Thursday to help in the investigation as the sheriff’s office sought information about anything anyone may have seen or heard out of the ordinary that might have happened between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Wednesday night in the area of Cunningham’s home.

Over the years, Cunningham had both battled with and supported the Rocky Mount City Council as a frequent attendee and speaker at council meetings.

On Friday, council members observed a moment of silence in Cunningham’s memory before starting their workday at the annual council retreat being held at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville.


In October 2014, Cunningham founded The ReGroup 1, a nonprofit organization established to provide jobs and education for felons to help turn their lives around.

Cunningham, who had been incarcerated himself at a young age, said he wanted to use the same hands with which he had committed crimes to help others work to turn their lives around.

He told the Telegram in a 2017 news story that, “Even though it was over 35 years ago, I think about my past every day — but what I want to do is hope God works through me to help others avoid the pain I went through and be positive with their life.”

In that article, Cunningham, who was then mulling a run for the District 3 council seat, said, “The city council position should be citizen-government — not an inside track to receive government funding for projects that benefit the council member. I talk to the common man in Rocky Mount every day. They are sick of lip service of helping the poor, with no results, while lining their own pockets.”

Anyone with information about the case can call the sheriff’s office at 252-641-7911 and ask for a detective or email tips to emuse@edgecombeco.com.

Team Cold Case is offering a reward of up to $15,000 for information leading to an arrest in the slaying and can be reached at 252-406-6736.