Pittman moved to Raleigh for safety

ROCKY MOUNT, NC The move comes hours after a judge denied bond for Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31.

At the same hearing, the judge appointed him two defense attorneys.

Pittman is accused of killing Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28. Her body was discovered in March near Marriot Farm Road a few miles north of Rocky Mount. The medical examiner said she'd most likely been strangled.

Pittman has a criminal record. According to the North Carolina sex offender registry, he was convicted in 1994 of taking indecent liberties with a 2-year-old. He was released from prison in April 1997. He was also once charged with loitering for prostitution.

Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight said Pittman has been in the Nash County Jail since mid-August on charges of driving with a revoked license and failing to register as a sex offender. He's now charged with first-degree murder and is being held at the Edgecombe County Detention Center.

Nicholson's family made a brief statement after the arrest.

"I'm relieved that there has been an arrest. I am grateful for the help of law enforcement and I continue to pray for the families of the other victims," said Nicholson's mother Diana Nicholson.

Nicholson also said she doesn't know Antwann Pittman or whether he knew her daughter.

Pittman's mother, Gloria Pittman, told Eyewitness News Tuesday evening her son wasn't capable of murder.

"It shocked me; it really did, because I know he isn't that type of person to do nothing like that," she said.

Pittman's mother said police are "pinning it on her son," because of his past record.

"I really don't think that he really did none of this," Pittman said. "They just really want to pin it on someone they already got someone in jail; it just might not be him."

Antwann Pittman is scheduled to face a judge Wednesday morning.

Six women total have been found slain

Pittman is just charged with the single murder. In addition to Nicholson, Ernestine Battle, 50, Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, Melody Wiggins, 29, and Jarneice Hargrove, 31, were all found between 2005 and early this year in the same rural area outside Rocky Mount.

Click here for pictures of the victims

The body of the first woman - Wiggins - was found in May 2005 on Noble Mill Pond Road. She'd been beaten and stabbed.

Thorpe was found in August 2007. Her head and an arm had been cut off.

In February, skeletal remains that have yet to be identified were found, and then Battle was found in March, 2008 in some woods. The medical examiner said it was not possible to determine a cause of death.

Nicholson was found in March, and Hargrove was found in June by a farmer.

Three other women are missing.

Yolanda Lancaster, 37; Joyce Renee Durham, 46; and Christine Marie Boone, 43 have not been heard from by their families for months.

The victims all had similar backgrounds. All were linked to drug abuse and possible prostitution.

Investigators have refused to speculate on whether the killings are the work of a serial killer, but they've called in the help of an FBI profiler who specializes in serial murderers.

"I'd like to express condolences and deepest sympathy to the families. While there's an arrest in Nicholson case, we'll continue to work the other cases. Efforts to locate the three missing, continue," said Rocky Mount Police Chief John H. Manley, Jr.

The chief declined to take questions citing the delicate nature of the ongoing investigation.

He said investigators have put in over six thousand hours on the case and followed up on some 300 leads.

"We thank the community for ongoing support. We still need your assistance in these investigations. Anyone with information on these cases should contact Twin City Crimestoppers at (252) 977-1111," he said.

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