A traveling carnival worker confessed to murdering two women and a teen girl he met on the job, according to police, who said they consider him a serial killer.
James Michael Wright, 23, of Mendota, Va., confessed to fatally shooting three women during an 18-day span between Feb. 28 and March 17 near his home, but claimed the killings were accidental, Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman told reporters during a news conference Monday.
“We find that hard to believe based on the information we have,” Newman said.
Newman said Wright admitted killing the three victims after meeting them through his employment as a subcontractor for James H. Drew Exposition, a Georgia-based amusement company that operates along the East Coast. One of Wright’s victims, Joslyn M. Alsup, 17, of Cobb County, Georgia, was the daughter of one of his coworkers at the carnival, Newman said.
The other victims were identified as Elizabeth Marie Vanmeter, 22, of Carter County, Tennessee; and Athina Hopson, 25, of Johnson City, Tennessee. Both women were reported missing to authorities in March, Newman said.
Wright told authorities he shot Hopson on March 17 and was moving her body when it fell out of his truck and rolled down an embankment and into a river, Newman said.
The remains of two bodies believed to be Vanmeter and Alsup were later recovered during a search of properties surrounding Wright’s residence. One body was found in a shallow gravesite, while the other was discovered near some logs, Newman said.
Investigators now plan on contacting other jurisdictions along the East Coast where Wright worked as a carnival employee to see if they have any missing person cases that may have connections to him, Newman said.
“The investigation is ongoing regarding the suspect’s activities while traveling with the carnival because, again, we know that carnival traveled extensively, certainly throughout the East Coast,” Newman told reporters. “Basically, this individual killed three women within about an 18-day period.”
Asked if Wright is a serial killer, Newman said: “I think you can say that, yes.”
Wright, who had no known prior criminal history, remains held without bond on three counts of capital murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty, authorities said.
A firearm that investigators believe was used in all three slayings has been recovered, according to Newman, who declined to discuss a motive.
“He wasn’t certainly on their radar as being in any type of criminal activity,” Newman said of Wright’s employer.
A call seeking comment from the Georgia-based carnival company was not immediately returned Tuesday, but its owner told WJHL that he had no record of Wright’s employment.
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