Carnival worker confesses to 'accidentally' shooting two women and one teen in space of 18 days
23-year-old James Michael Wright from Mendota, Virginia, was arrested on Thursday, May 9, on three counts of capital murder
A traveling carnival worker has been arrested on murder charges after officials revealed that he confessed to killing two women in Tennessee and a teenager in Georgia who was reported missing earlier this year. The accused, 23-year-old James Michael Wright from Mendota, Virginia, was arrested on Thursday, May 9, on three counts of capital murder after he submitted to a police interview and confessed to fatally shooting three young women in the span of 18 days.
The New York Post reported that Wright was employed as a sub-contract worker with the James H. Drew Carnival. He told investigators at the Washington County Virginia Sheriff's Office that he gunned down 22-year-old Elizabeth Vanmeter from Carter Country, Tennessee, during an argument on or around February 28. Vanmeter was officially reported as missing on March 17.
Wright then told officers that on March 9, he shot and killed 17-year-old Joycelyn Alsup from Marietta, Georgia, after the two of them had sexual intercourse in the woods. He claimed that he tried to shoot an animal but ended up shooting Alsup in the process. The girl, who was the daughter of one of Wright's co-workers, was reported missing a day earlier.
The final crime that he confessed to was one that took place on March 17. Wright told investigators that he shot and killed 25-year-old Athina Hopson in the head after he tripped and fell while armed with his gun.
During the shocking interview with investigators, Wright reportedly recalled how he was transporting Hopson's body in the back of his truck to dump at a secluded spot and it fell out and rolled down an embankment close to the bridge on Nordyke Road in Virginia. He then said that he retrieved the body and dumped it into the river.
According to a statement from the sheriff's office, Hopson was reported missing on March 21 by her mother. When investigators conducted a search on the properties around Wright's home on Mendota Road on Friday, they were able to recover two human corpses which they believed to be those of Vanmeter and Alsup. The sheriff's office stated that one body was dug up from a shallow grave and the other was found near some logs. Authorities are still looking for Hopson's body.
Post-mortem examinations are yet to be performed on the recovered remains to positively identify them. Investigators also seized a .22-caliber rifle that is believed to have been used in all three of the shootings.
Wright said that he met the victims through his work with the traveling carnival and claimed that all three of the shootings were "accidental". Sheriff Fred Newman said that he found this "hard to believe". Law enforcement agencies in Virginia were first notified of Wright's presence two weeks ago, when authorities in Johnson City, Tennessee, contacted the Washington County Sheriff's Office to set up an interview with Wright regarding Hopson's disappearance.
The investigation was able to establish that Hopson was last seen with Wright in March. An interview was conducted after which authorities obtained a search warrant for the 23-year-old's truck where they found Hopson's cellphone.
Wright is currently being held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon, Virginia, on three counts of capital murder, three counts of using a firearm in committing a murder and three counts of concealment of a dead body. Washington County Commonwealth Attorney Joshua Cumbow said that "the death penalty is definitely on the table" even though the investigation is still on-going.
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