Jury selection begins in Pittman murder trial

Antwan Pittman in court
August 15, 2013 4:35:45 AM PDT
Family members and friends of nine women who went missing over a period of several years were on hand Monday morning as jury selection got underway in the trial of a man accused of murder.

Of those nine women, eight have been found dead, and one - Joyce Renee Durham - remains missing.

Antwan Pittman is charged with first degree murder in the strangulation death of 28-year-old Taraha Nicholson, though many believe he had something to do with the other deaths as well.

It is an Edgecombe County case, but the trial was moved to Windsor in Bertie County because of pre-trial publicity.

Early on in the jury selection process, news coverage of the case was an issue for at least three potential jurors. The judge dismissed one person who said they had already been influenced by news coverage.

Twelve jurors were seated - five men, seven women.

The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.

Multiple witnesses are expected to be called, including the victim's mother, Diana Nicholson.

On Saturday, members of PROMM - the Parents and Relatives of the Missing and Murdered - gathered in front of the Edgecombe County courthouse to mark two years since Pittman's incarceration.

At times, emotions ran high as those in attendance remembered their loved ones.

"We miss you Jarnice, and we miss the other ones," cried Patsy Hargrove, mother of victim Jarnice Hargrove. "We will always love you, we will always love you."

"They have enough evidence for one death," said Jackie Wiggins, president of PROMM and mother of victim Jackie Thorpe. "So from that one, if justice can be brought, I feel like my other members of the group, other victim's families, can get that much closure as well."

Some family members say the start of the trial comes as a relief, even as uncertainty reigns.

"Not knowing whether she's still alive...I think that goes on constantly," said Winston Kemp, step-father of Joyce Durham.

Absent from the gathering were members of the law enforcement community. It was taken note of by Rocky Mount city councilman Andre Knight, who has led the effort to classify the remaining unsolved cases as high priority.

"We keep hope alive that justice will come to this community and to our families," Knight said.

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