ShareThis Page
Sheriff: Carnival worker from Virginia shot, killed 3 women | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Sheriff: Carnival worker from Virginia shot, killed 3 women

Associated Press
1155454_web1_1155454-0cc79f75851e4545a37f7e18fc87cbb1

Authorities in Virginia say two missing women and a missing teenage girl were shot to death by a carnival worker who met the victims through the traveling show.

James Michael Wright, 23, is accused of killing the women in February and March near his home in a far western corner of rural Virginia.

“Basically, this individual killed three women within about an 18-day period,” Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman said at a news conference Monday.

Newman said the killings stopped shortly after Wright’s truck was damaged in an accident. He said Wright could be classified as a serial killer.

Wright became acquainted with two of the victims through working as a subcontractor for the James H. Drew Carnival, the sheriff said. The 17-year-old was the daughter of one of Wright’s co-workers.

Newman identified the victims as 25-year-old Athina Hopson of Johnson City, Tennessee; 22-year-old Elizabeth Marie Vanmeter of Carter County, Tennessee; and 17-year-old Joslyn M. Alsup of Cobb County, Georgia. All three had been reported missing in March.

Newman said the investigation is continuing into Wright’s activities with the Georgia-based carnival, which he said traveled extensively.

“We have plans of contacting jurisdictions where that carnival very well may have been to see if they have missing persons,” Newman said.

The carnival’s owners did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

The investigation into Wright began about two weeks ago, authorities said. Police in Johnson City, Tennessee, who were searching for Hopson, zeroed in on Wright because he was the last person seen with her.

A police interview with Wright led to a search of his truck. Hopson’s cellphone was found inside, police said.

Wright eventually confessed to killing Hopson and the two other women, Vanmeter and Alsup, police said.

Two bodies were recovered near Wright’s home, one from a shallow grave and another near some logs, police said.

Authorities say they are still looking for Hopson’s remains. They said Wright claims he put her body into a river after it fell out of his truck.

According to police, Wright has claimed the deaths were accidental.

Citing court documents, WJHL-TV reported that Wright told investigators he shot and killed Vanmeter after a fight. He claimed he was trying to shoot an animal when he shot the 17-year-old. And he told investigators that he shot Hopson after he tripped and fell.

Newman said Wright’s claims are hard to believe. Autopsies were scheduled.

Wright has been charged with three counts of capital murder, for which the punishment can be death or life in prison without parole, said Barry L. Proctor, Wright’s court-appointed attorney.

Proctor told The Associated Press that he’s had one short meeting with Wright but cannot discuss the conversation. Proctor added that he hasn’t seen a written summation of Wright’s statements to police or video or audio of his conversations with them.

“We don’t take a position quite yet on the statements that are there or whether they’re truthful or not,” Proctor said.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.