Who committed the crime?

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 22, 2006

WINTON – Hertford County and federal officials have released details about the type of behavior they expected from the individual who committed two brutal murders outside of Murfreesboro in August.

“We do know these women would stop to help anyone who apparently needed it,” Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan said during a press conference today (Thursday). “It is possible that these women were murdered by someone they were giving assistance to, possibly offering them a ride or giving them money.”

The information is related to the deaths of Dorothy Hobbs, 74, and 71-year-old Nellie Bradley. The bodies of the Emporia, Virginia sisters were discovered on a farm path near Vaughan’s Creek Road outside of Murfreesboro on August 4.

Sheriff Vaughan reiterated the timetable which had come to light after investigation. He said the ladies left Emporia at approximately 2 p.m. on August 4 and stopped at David’s Market in Hunterdale near 3:30 p.m. and placed a telephone call to a sister.

“They were last seen alive between 3:45 p.m. and 4 p.m.,” the sheriff said. “They were seen coming thru Boykins, Virginia giving a donation at the bucket drive for Relay for Life in front of the Baptist church located on Highway 35.”

The sheriff said he believe the person being sought in this case would be familiar with the area of the church in Boykins and “may be known to individuals who live or work in that vicinity.”

What Vaughan and other investigators are alerting the public to at this time is the behavior which may have been exhibited by the perpetrator.

“Based on the violent interaction between the offender and the victims, it is known that the offender injured himself and would have needed to later explain that injury or seek medical attention,” Vaughan said. “After the attack, if the offender was employed, he may have missed a day or more from his work. It is important for our citizens to think about this.”

The sheriff also said the subject may have been noticeably different following the murders.

“There would have been a noticeable change of mood,” he said. “There would have been an increased use by the offender of drugs and alcohol.

“The offender may have left the area immediately after the attacks for previously unscheduled reasons such as vacation, job search or saying a family emergency,” he continued. “Nothing is too small.”

After his opening statement, the sheriff was asked if there was a profile of the suspect and he allowed the answer to come from Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Daniel Snow.

“Our concentration is on the offender’s post-event behavior,” Snow said. “The behavior is what we want people in that area to think about.”

Pressed about a profile during later questions, Snow said it was important not to focus on a particular individual.

“We don’t want to get into a profile,” Snow said. “We are looking for behavior, not characteristics like race or height or weight.

“What we believe is the behavior is more noticeable than the individual,” he added. “When you investigate a murder of this magnitude, you want to do it with eyes wide open.”

Asked what kind of injury may have been sustained, Snow said there likely would have been an injury to a hand or arm, possibly a cut or puncture wound.

The sheriff would not say if he believed the attack was random and said he had no idea if the person was an acquaintance of the women at this point.

Questioned about the bodies of the victim and whether or not they were “molested,” State Bureau of Investigation Agent Dwight Ransome said the victims were “brutally cut and stabbed.”

He went on to say, “I can’t answer if they were molested. Bear in mine tests are ongoing with evidence found at the crime scene.”

The sheriff was forthcoming about where the focus of the investigation is at this point, saying the agencies were concentrating their efforts in the Boykins, Virginia area and the surrounding communities.

The sheriff insisted his department, the FBI, SBI and Southampton County (Va.) Sheriff’s Office continued to investigate the murder from every possible angle.

“All on-going leads are being pursued,” Vaughan said. “Evidence is being analyzed utilizing the latest forensic techniques and the investigation will continue until this murder is solved.”

The sheriff stressed that no information was too small to contact the agencies investigating the case. He reminded citizens of a $12,500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible.

Tips can be emailed to the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office at hfdcounty.sheriff@ncmail.net or mailed to P.O. Box 176, Winton, NC 27986.

Individuals may also call crimestoppers toll free at 888.298.8567 or call the SBI toll free at 800.334.3000.