KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Police have arrested a Virginia carnival worker and charged him with the murder of two Tennessee women and a teenage girl. 

Police say that 23-year-old James Michael Wright confessed to killing the three women near his home in Washington County, Virginia over the course of three weeks between February and March of this year.

But what’s strange, police noted, was that even though the murders took place over nearly a month’s time, Wright claims that they happened accidentally.

The suspect reportedly works for a carnival that travels around the east coast. (Flickr)

 

Police don’t buy it.

It’s “hard to believe” the suspect’s story, said Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman.  

The victims were identified as Elizabeth Vanmeter, 22, of Carter County, Tennessee; Joycelyn Alsup, 17, of Cobb County, Georgia; and Athena Hopson, 25, of Johnson City, Tennessee.

The following comes from a report published by USA Today.

“Wright told investigators he fatally shot Vanmeter after they had a fight on Feb. 28. He said he buried her body near his home in Mendota, Virginia. Vanmeter was reported missing from Carter County on March 17. A caretaker said she had not been seen since Feb. 28.

23-year-old James Michael Wright has been charged in the death of 3 women. (Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

 

Wright said he fatally shot Alsup on March 9 after they had sex in the woods near his home, the court records show. He said he was trying to shoot an animal when he shot her instead. He said he covered her body with logs next to a creek near his home. Alsup was reported missing from Cobb County on March 8.

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Wright admitted to killing Hopson while they were on a walk on March 17, court records say. He told investigators he shot her when he tripped and fell. Wright said he put her body in the back of his truck but that it fell out of the vehicle while he was driving over a bridge. Wright said he could not retrieve the body and left it in a river. Hopson was reported missing from Johnson City on March 21.”

Crews are still searching for the missing remains of Hopson, but investigators have already recovered Alsup and Vanmeter’s bodies. Hopson’s cellphone was found inside Wright’s truck after a tip noted that the last person she was seen with was Wright. Police have also recovered a gun they believe was used in the homicides.

After thorough questioning and a search of his property, Wright confessed to the murders.

Police called Wright a ‘serial killer’ but say there is no evidence to suggest that there may be more undiscovered victims. Regardless, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI are continuing their investigation. 

“We know that that carnival traveled extensively certainly throughout the East Coast,” Chief Newman said. “We have plans of contacting jurisdictions where that carnival very well may have been to see if they have missing persons.”

 

Wright was charged with three counts of capital murder, three counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony and three counts of disposing of a body. He is currently in a Virginia jail and has been denied bond. 

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