Familes want answers in deaths

EDGECOMBE COUNTY A group of local community activists partnered with family members for the event at the Martin Luther King Junior Park in Rocky Mount to raise awareness of the crimes.

The vigil's organizers say they're upset about the lack of attention the murders have gotten. One victim's aunt says she will never forget when she got word her niece was dead.

"It was just like a knife that stabbed me through my heart. I said, God, I prayed that she would be alright. But I pray that she's in the hands of the Lord and I know she's looking down on her family now. She can say that my family's spirit still lives on for me because she was a loving person," said Bertha West.

According to authorities, six African American women have been murdered since 2005. As many as three more are missing. The dead are Jarniece Hargrove, 31; Taraha Nicholson, 28; Ernestine Battle, 50; Jackie "Nikki" Thorpe; Melody Wiggins, 29; and one who has yet to be identified.

The women reportedly have similar backgrounds - troubled pasts - fueled by drugs and prostitution.

Earlier this month, Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight said a task force was looking into the string of deaths.

Knight said the first body was found in 2005 and all of the cases remain unsolved. A farmer discovered the most recent body in the end of June.

According to multiple media reports, some of the bodies were found in the same general area in the northern end of the county.

Knight said the State Bureau of Investigation has been involved in developing the case and the district attorney and Rocky Mount police are also involved.

The sheriff has not said if detectives have been able to find any link between the deaths, or if they're possibly the work of a serial killer.

Copyright © 2022 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.