Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Where Has The Mayor Been In All of This?"

Organizers tie hope for solving case to media
By Mike Hixenbaugh Rocky Mount Telegram

A group of community organizers hopes to keep the attention of national media focused on Rocky Mount and a string of local murders that some believe are the work of a serial killer.
At least five Rocky Mount women, all black, have been abducted, killed and abandoned in the woods since 2005, and three other women are missing. Investigators believe the homicides, as well as the murder of a sixth woman yet to be identified, might be linked.

Stephanie Jones, who helped organize the group Murdered or Missing Sisters in the wake of the homicides, said Saturday she believes recent nationwide media coverage of the murders could lead to a break in the case.

Following a brief segment on CNN on Wednesday, the Rocky Mount story appeared on every major U.S. news Web site this week.

“But we have to keep the pressure on,” Jones said. “I know there has been a lot of coverage this week, but it still hasn’t received as much attention as it deserves.”

Rocky Mount Councilman Andre Knight agrees. Knight, also president of the local NAACP, said he fears if nothing new happens with the case during the next few days, the national media will move on. Already this week, the case has been overshadowed by national reports of other missing persons.

Producers with both CNN Headline News’ Nancy Grace and Fox News Live this week had planned in-depth segments on the Rocky Mount story — first reported more than two months ago — before canceling coverage hours before airtime. In both instances, producers replaced the story with news of a Georgia woman who was abducted Tuesday. The missing woman is white.

“There hasn’t been enough attention,” Jones said. “I feel bad for (the Georgia woman). She needs attention, too. But we have six women murdered and three still missing. They need at least the same attention, don’t you think?”

George Cook, who runs the New Jersey-based alternative news organization Let’s Talk Honestly, said he’s been following the Rocky Mount case closely. Cook maintains a nationwide list of missing black women on his Web site because, he said, national media typically has little interest in such cases.

“I hate to crowd this issue with race because I’m sure police are doing everything they can,” Cook said. “But it’s hard not to wonder why there have been so few major news stories about this many murdered women, especially with three other women still missing.”
Authorities announced last month that the FBI was helping investigate the series of murders, which date back to 2005.

The bodies of the five black women, each with a history of drug abuse and suspected prostitution, have been found partially clothed and abandoned in remote locations outside the city during the past few years, prompting the recent national media attention.

Cook said the women’s lifestyles might make the story less appealing for TV news producers, but that shouldn’t take away from the importance of the story.

“A life is a life,” he said.

Jones and her group, which raised money to post photos of the victims on area billboards, want to keep the story in the news with hopes the attention could lead to answers. Jones wants city leaders and law enforcement officials to help in that cause.

“Where has the mayor been in all of this?” Jones said. “Why hasn’t he spoken out. Why hasn’t there been a press conference to let people know these women are missing? Why don’t we have search crews canvassing these fields, and why aren’t other city leaders speaking out to comfort these families or raise awareness of the missing?

“Maybe if those things were going on — if the community rallied together — Nancy Grace would want to do a segment. But it seems like a lot of people just don’t care.”

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Rocky Mount Police Department at 252-972-1411.

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