Remains found where others discovered

Staff WriterJanuary 12, 2011 

— A man hunting for deer antlers in the woods stumbled across human remains Monday in an area of Edgecombe County where the bodies of several women have been discovered in recent years.

Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight said he contacted the families of YolandaRenee "Skip" Lancaster, 37, and Joyce Renee Durham, 26. The two women from the area have been reported missing for several years.

Knight discounted the possibility that the remains could be Aimee Lynn Pitt, a 22-year-old Tarboro woman who has been missing since Dec. 20.

"We ruled it out due to the fact of how long the remains we found have been out in the weather," he said.

The skeletal remains were found in a wooded area in northern Edgecombe County, where the remains of five other women have been discovered along Seven Bridges Road since 2005. The bodies of two others were found a short distance away, and an eighth was found in Halifax County, near Scotland Neck.

All of the women found have been African-American. Some had a history of substance abuse and prostitution. Their families have said some of the women knew one another.

In June 2008, the sheriff's office requested assistance from the State Bureau of Investigation and formed a task force of local, state and federal officials to try to determine whether the deaths were related.

Last year, at the behest of Gov. Bev Perdue, the N.C. National Guard participated in a search throughout the heavily wooded area for Lancaster - whose family reported her missing in March 2008 - and Durham, missing since 2007.

In September 2009, a grand jury indicted Antwan Maurice Pittman, a convicted sex offender from Rocky Mount, charging him with killing Taraha Shenice Nicholson, one of the women reported missing. He has not been charged in any of the other deaths.

Other women identified

In addition to Nicholson, the other women whose bodies have been identified are Roberta Williams, 40, found in March 2010; Christine Boone, 43, found in March 2010; Jarneice "Sunshine" Hargrove, 31, found in June 2009; Elizabeth Jane Smallwood, 33, found in February 2009; Ernestine Battle, 50, found in March 2008; Jackie Thorpe, 35, found in August 2007; and Melody Wiggins, 29, found in May 2005.

Members of the task force returned Tuesday to the woods off Battleboro Leggett Road, where the remains were discovered the day before, Knight said. He said the deer hunter called his office shortly before 5 p.m. Monday.

Knight said his investigators could not positively determine whether the remains are female.

"We have an opinion, but nothing definite until we hear from the pathologist," he said.

thomasi.mcdonald@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4533

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