Man held in death of woman found on I-540

Police are investigating the connection between Robert Reaves and Latrese Curtis

Staff WriterFebruary 3, 2008 

— Edgar Diaz can't believe his former neighbor, the well-dressed man who held weekly Bible study sessions at his home, murdered an N.C. Central University student found dead on the side of a Wake County highway Wednesday morning.

But Wake County investigators believe Robert Lee Adams Reaves, 43, of Birchcrest Court in Durham killed Latrese Matral Curtis. Reaves was arrested early Saturday morning and charged in her death. He remained at the Wake County jail Saturday night. His first appearance before a judge will be Monday.

Reaves lived on Gardenview Place, near The Streets at Southpoint in Durham, when Diaz moved next door about two years ago. He remembered Reaves saying he worked doing research at home and was planning to start a church.

"He wasn't a guy where you saw women hanging around," Diaz, 35, said. "Every time I saw him, he was doing something church-related."

Investigators are still learning about Reaves' background and how he and Curtis met.

"We're still looking into that," Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said at an early morning news conference, adding that detectives still have "a lot of ground to cover."

Phyllis Stephens, Wake County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said no further questions about the case would be answered this weekend.

Motorists found Curtis' body lying along Interstate 540 near the Louisburg Road exit just before 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Her car was found about a half-mile away. The 21-year-old was killed with a sharp object, according to the state medical examiner's office.

Curtis was a junior who took business management and administration classes at night and worked part-time in the human resources department at Sears at Triangle Town Center. She and Darin Lee Curtis, 26, were married less than a year ago. Her body was found less than five miles from their home.

Darin Curtis contacted Durham 911 about an hour after his wife's body was found. He told dispatchers he last talked to her about 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Reaves has been in court in connection with financial card theft, larceny of a motor vehicle and possessing a stolen vehicle. He has convictions in North Carolina for speeding, reckless driving and soliciting to obtain property by false pretense. Reaves also was convicted on third-degree sex charges in South Carolina.

His relatives in Bennettsville, S.C., spoke briefly about Reaves.

"We're sad about it, but we feel like Robert didn't do it," said his brother, James Adams. "We know that he's not that type of person. We feel like if they investigate it right, they'll find him innocent."

Wake County deputies and a Durham police officer were stationed in front of Reaves' southern Durham home Saturday morning. Neighbors in the cul-de-sac, located in the Highgate community where parents push children in strollers and residents jog in nice weather, said Reaves had moved in a few months ago.

Neighbors described Reaves as quiet and friendly and someone who mostly kept to himself. He's either separated or divorced and has children, they said.

Kristie Thompson, who lives near Reaves, said police cars have been in the area since Friday afternoon. She didn't know why they were there until Saturday morning.

"All the neighbors want to know what was happening," she said. "We're shocked to find out that one of our neighbors might have killed someone."

stan.chambers@newsobserver.com or (919) 965-2426

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