Trial delayed as search for bodies continues


Pittman is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Taraha Nicholson. Her body was discovered in March, 2009 near Marriot Farm Road a few miles north of Rocky Mount. The medical examiner said she'd most likely been strangled.

Documents in the case said DNA taken from Nicholson's body matched Pittman.

But according to a search warrant released in the investigation, Pittman could be linked to four other deaths. The document authorized homicide investigators to look for evidence at a Halifax County mobile home where he once lived.

It was near that home that investigators found the body of Christine Boone, 43, last month. The search warrant indicated that investigators believe Pittman may have killed Boone in the mobile home.

In court Wednesday, Pittman's lawyer Tom Sallenger said his client is not guilty of Nicholson's murder or any other killings.

Massive search underway

In court Wednesday, prosecutors said they are still getting new information from detectives. They didn't say if that was related to the massive search now going on in Edgecombe County.

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue has activated the state's National Guard to help search for two missing Rocky Mount women. The soldiers are looking for Yolanda Lancaster, 37, and Joyce Renee Durham, 46. They have not been heard from by their families for months.

Perdue's office on Tuesday said Edgecombe County Sheriff James L. Knight requested the assistance. Knight's department is part of a regional task force that's investigating the deaths Nicholson, Boone, and seven other women from around the Rocky Mount area.

About 100 National Guard soldiers are searching through the end of the week around Seven Bridges road near Whitakers. That's where the remains of five of the nine women have been found since August 2007.

Latest body identified

March 31, Rocky Mount police said skeletal remains found March 27 were identified as 40-year-old Roberta Williams. People riding four wheelers off Seven Bridges Road found Williams about 20 yards inside a tree line.

Williams was last seen in the spring of 2008 by a family member in Rocky Mount. She was never reported missing because she was considered to be a homeless person.

In addition to Nicholson, Williams, and Boone, the bodies of Ernestine Battle, 50, Jarniece Hargrove, 31, Jackie Thorpe, 35, Melody Wiggins, 29, Elizabeth Jane Smallwood, 33, and Denise M. Williams, 21, have all been discovered dumped in wooded areas. Investigators said most of the women had a history of drug abuse and prostitution - which likely made them more vulnerable.

Possible Pittman connection

The search warrant filed by investigators this month also said a NC Highway Patrol trooper found Pittman asleep in a car on the day Jarniece Hargrove disappeared. The car was parked about 200 yards away from where her body was discovered about a month later.

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.

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