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A story Wednesday about a murder-suicide in Research Triangle Park incorrectly characterized lupus, the disease Brinton Millsap had, as an immunodeficiency disease. Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own immune system when fighting off the disease. In immunodeficiency diseases, part of the immune system breaks down and is lacking pieces to fight off the disease.
DURHAM -- Brinton Marcell Millsap apparently shot three women and himself Friday night because of a rumor he had been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease.
"He did think that was the case, but it was a lie," said Anita D. Baker, the mother of one of the slain women, Alexandria J. Baker Pierce.
Pierce, 23, a rising senior at UNC Greensboro, made an impromptu trip to Durham on Friday to tell Millsap in person that the report that she had given him a disease was not true, Baker said. She left Greensboro in her green Honda Accord about 9 p.m. and picked up her friends, Amesha Alia Page-Smith, 24, and Adrianne Celeste Stevens, 22, both of Durham.
All three would later lie dead inside the car along a vacant stretch of N.C. 54 in Research Triangle Park. Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill said Millsap fatally shot the three women then shot himself once. The car and bodies were discovered just after midnight Saturday.
The four had known one another since middle school, but Millsap, 23, was not part of the women's regular circle, friends and family said.
Millsap told his brother, Dustin Lyons, 27, of Durham, that he had had sex with Pierce the weekend before the killings.
Lyons said his brother was struggling with lupus, an immunodeficiency disease, and was "outraged" when he heard the rumor that Pierce had given him herpes, a sexually transmitted disease characterized by outbreaks of sores in the genital area, Lyons said. The infection can last in the body indefinitely.
"It was a bad situation that went down with those girls," Lyons said. "He was very upset with even the person that turned him onto the girl he had sex with. ... He made a wrong decision, but my brother didn't live a life of this type of stuff. "
Baker said she doesn't know why one of her daughter's friends, "who was like a daughter to me," started the rumor. Her daughter did not have a sexually transmitted disease, she said.
Baker said she spoke with her daughter Thursday night and thought things had been resolved. But the next day she said Pierce told her, "This is such nonsense, and I really need to go and sit down with him in person."
Baker said her daughter taught 2-year-olds at a Greensboro day care center, liked to cook big meals for her friends and since high school had a personalized license plate she adored that said "worldluv."
"From my perspective we loved all of those four young people and we share equally in the loss of all four," Baker said. "And I feel very strongly we will all come through this together, from the love and support of the entire community."
A Durham Sheriff's Office spokesman said investigators were aware that a rumor may have precipitated the murder-suicide, but declined to comment further.
On June 6, Page-Smith was talking on the phone to her best friend, Adriene Williams, about the previous weekend when someone kept beeping in, Williams said.
Williams, who grew up in Durham but now lives in Tennessee, talked to Page-Smith often, she said..
The previous weekend Page-Smith, Pierce and Stevens had gone to a cookout together, Williams said. Either during or after the cookout, Pierce and Millsap had sex, Williams said.
As they spoke on the phone June 6, Page-Smith said Millsap and his friend kept calling her phone saying they had heard Pierce had herpes, Williams said.
"Brinton said if he goes to the doctor and his test results come back positive, he was going to kill A.J. (Pierce),'" Williams said, recounting her telephone conversation.
"At that time me and Amesha were just joking about it," Williams said. "And I am just like, 'It is not that serious. I mean it is not HIV.'"
It's not clear if Millsap had any reason, besides the rumor, to suspect he might have herpes. A blood test takes eight to 12 weeks (after becoming infected) and lupus can cause false positive readings, said Dr. Peter Leone, an infectious disease specialist at the UNC School of Medicine.
An outbreak can occur within one to two weeks of contracting the virus, but even so there is no way to know when someone became infected and from whom, Leone said. About 17 percent of American adults have the herpes virus, Leone said.
In half of infected people what appears to be a first outbreak is actually a recurrence, he added.
Williams said she last spoke with Page-Smith during Page-Smith's lunch break Friday. Page-Smith worked as a technical adviser for a company in Raleigh, her mother said.
Page-Smith planned to get off work about 10 p.m. Friday, Williams said. Stevens and Page-Smith had some spaghetti at Page-Smith's home, and Page-Smith told her mother she was going out with Stevens around 11 p.m., Williams said.
Just before midnight, a Radisson Hotel Research Triangle Park employee called 911 and said a man stopped in and reported a possible shooting.
"He said there was a lot of blood," the employee said.
Lupus can cause inflammation and pain in any part of the body, but is most prevalent in the skin, joints and blood.
"That kind of changed his way of life," said Millsap's brother, Lyons. "He had symptoms. It makes your bones ache. He was going through a lot of stuff. He was looking at things differently."
Millsap's lupus affected his skin and a doctor had recently told him he didn't have long to live, said a longtime family friend, Stephanie Adcock.
After the diagnosis, he started to make bad judgments, she said.
"I really think that had a big weight on him," Adcock said. "It was just the small things, he was doing so well in school, and with sports, it just seems like after that happened it just kind of started to fall apart for him a little bit."
Millsap's Facebook page, which has since been taken down, had dozens of comments from friends, teammates and relatives. Some comments condemned him for the shootings and noted that there were warning signs.
Before he died, Millsap posted daily on his Facebook wall about street life and a gun, or "strap."
On May 20 he wrote, "i already kno dat u can cheat death ... God sent me a strap and said use dis wen u need help ... use it rite and ull b blessed ... use it wrong and b on a journey without a purpose ... road to destruction and im part of it."
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