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Police suspect serial killer in North Carolina

  • Story Highlights
  • Remains of five women found since 2005 along road outside Rocky Mount
  • Police chief says it appears women "suffered a similar death"
  • One local woman recounts terrifying ride with suspicious man
  • City, county, state agencies have formed task force
By Gabriel Falcon
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(CNN) -- Police are investigating whether a North Carolina country road may have become the dumping ground for a serial killer, a man one woman believes could have given her a terrifying ride she will never forget.

Jackie Nikelia Thorpe's body was found along Seven Bridges Road in August 2007.

Jackie Nikelia Thorpe's body was found along Seven Bridges Road in August 2007.

Since May 2005, the remains of five women have been found near Seven Bridges Road outside Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The road snakes northeast out of town into rural Edgecombe County.

Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley Jr. thinks the women's deaths are related.

"They seem to have some connection," he said.

Lanessa Williams of Rocky Mount thinks she narrowly missed joining the ranks of the slain women, saying she is not sure whether a man who offered her a ride to a friend's house last year is responsible for their deaths.

The longer the two drove, the more she felt a sense of danger, said Williams, 38. The man -- whom she described as thin and African-American, with a mustache and glasses -- rarely spoke and "looked crazy."

"He kept on going, and he rode through lights, and he wouldn't let me get out," she said. Eventually, her fears were confirmed when he demanded sex. "He told me that if I didn't do what he wanted me to do, he was going to kill me and throw me in the river."

The man eventually stopped his truck in a dark wilderness area, she said. When he got out, she ran away.

"I laid in a ditch and stayed there for a while," she said. "He was riding around looking for me."

Police are talking to Williams about her experience. She told authorities she noticed something strange: The large block letters saying "Chevrolet" on the back of the man's truck appeared to be painted on.

All five of the slain women were African-American, authorities said. Four lived in Rocky Mount, about 55 miles northeast of the state capital, Raleigh.

According to the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office, they were:

• Melody Wiggins, 29, whose body was found May 29, 2005.

• Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35, whose body was found August 17, 2007, behind a house on Seven Bridges Road.

• Ernestine Battle, 50, whose remains were found in a wooded area on the road March 13, 2008.

• Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, whose remains were discovered March 7, 2009.

• Jarneice Latonya Hargrove, 31, whose skeletal remains were found June 29, 2009, in the woods off the road.

Manley said it appears that the women "suffered a similar death," but authorities are not divulging further details, including the cause of the deaths.

Edgecombe County Sheriff James L. Knight is leading the investigation, working with Rocky Mount police and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. The three agencies have created a joint task force to investigate the unsolved killings.

Knight is asking the public to be vigilant. "Watch for vehicles if they are on a path or stop along that roadway, and give us a call."

Anyone with more information is asked to call the sheriff's office at (252) 641-7911.

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