Murder suspect makes first court appearance

Published 2:36 pm Thursday, September 3, 2009

WINDSOR – A man charged in a 37-year-old triple murder made his first appearance in Bertie County District Court Wednesday morning.

Roy Lawrence Rascoe, 68, appeared before District Court Judge W. Rob Lewis and was informed of his right to have an attorney. According to the Bertie County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office, Rascoe retained Ahoskie-based attorney Perry Martin as his lawyer.

Judge Lewis also set Rascoe’s Probable Cause Hearing for September 24.

Rascoe was arrested Monday morning in Butner and charged in the November 1972 deaths of his wife, Annie Elizabeth Rascoe, and two children, Rita Renee and Tony Ray.

The bodies of those three were found in the Rascoe home, located in the Indian Woods community in southern Bertie County. The home was completely destroyed by fire, which has now been ruled arson.

The fire was initially investigated by the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office, but no charges were filed. Roy Rascoe, however, was arrested on a parole violation from the state of Maryland, according to a 1972 newspaper report from the Bertie Ledger-Advance.

Bertie County Sheriff Greg Atkins said new evidence came to light in the nearly four-decade old case, allowing officers within his department to make an arrest.

The arrest was made Monday morning after Rascoe was released from federal prison where, according to the Associated Press, he was serving a sentence for theft.

He was returned to Bertie County by Bertie County Sheriff’s Det. Sgt. Ed Pittman, Federal Bureau of Investigation Officer Paul Gray and State Bureau of Investigation Officer Calvin Woodard.

Before his arrival in Bertie County, the brother of the late Annie Rascoe spoke to members of the media about his sister and her children. He said the family had always believed foul play was involved, but had almost accepted justice would never be served.

“I honestly thought he was dead until recently,” Smallwood said of Rascoe. “I just found out recently that he was alive.”

Smallwood said his sister was “a very nice person” and that he thought of her and her children every day.

For his part, Rascoe said Monday that he was not guilty of the charges against him. He is expected to enter an official plea on September 24 during the Probable Cause Hearing.

Det. Sgt. Pittman said he appreciated the work of the Windsor Police Department, the SBI and the FBI in investigating the case.