|What is my nationaly:||Finnish|
|Eye tint:||Brilliant gray-green|
|Tattoo:||I have tattoos|
On the sunny spring day of April 18th,with a gentle breeze hardly blowing more than a whisper, neighborhood residents found the naked body of year-old Rhonda Jones, a Lumbee woman, stuffed in a trash can in East Lumberton, North Carolina. Generations ago, this resilient Indigenous community took refuge from white settler massacres in the swamps of southeastern North Carolina. They eventually adopted their name from the river that runs through the swampland.
Now, another threat of violence hangs over the community. Shatter the Silence members have confirmed at least 31 Native women have gone missing or been murdered in eastern North Carolina since The same day Jones' body was found, her acquaintance Kristin "Christina" Bennet, was also found dead in a nearby abandoned house. And three weeks later, the body of Megan Oxendine—Jones' friend and fellow Lumbee member, who came forward to be interviewed by police—was discovered three blocks away.
In the U. More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and more than half have experienced sexual violence. But this crisis is not limited to the western states, where Native populations are largest. It's also plaguing the Lumbee Nation, a state-recognized tribe in North Carolina with more than 55, members, the largest Native population east of the Mississippi River. Despite their s, Lumbee tribe members say they feel invisible, as law enforcement and legislators have turned a blind eye to the MMIW crisis in their backyard.
Price founded an advocacy group, Shatter the Silence, which has a Facebook group of more than 4, members seeking answers.
Shatter the Silence members have confirmed at least 31 Native women have gone missing or been murdered in eastern North Carolina sinceand they're still investigating more than cases that stretch back to the s. Price calls her daughter "a fighter. After her own challenges with substance abuse, she supported other women seeking recovery.
Co-workers and friends say Jones feared for her life and disappeared in Januaryafter it was suggested that her cooperation with a law enforcement investigation would put her in harm's way. Police have declined to verify whether she was actively working with them before her death. Three years later, there have been no arrests or suspects targeted in the murders of Jones, Bennet, or Oxendine.
Lumberton Police Lieutenant Vernon Johnson said "I cannot comment on an active investigation, but there was not enough physical evidence to determine the cause of death. Such statements spark outrage among family, friends, tribal and community members, and statewide advocates, who say that cases like these are going unreported in national MMIW databases.
She says that misclassification of these cases is a major issue in North Carolina.
Sometimes missing and murdered Indigenous women in North Carolina aren't even counted as Native. In her research, Keck has found that law enforcement relies on facial features to code victims based on outdated stereotypes of what Native Americans look like.
And MMIW cases are often left out of federal databases because many tribes aren't federally recognized. Out of the eight state-recognized tribes in North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee is the only one with full federal recognition. In Robeson County, home to the small city of Lumberton, mistrust of local law enforcement runs deep. Both conspiracy theories and confirmed corruption related to drugs, prostitution and human trafficking are commonplace in this largely rural county, and have been for decades.
Human-rights advocates call it "corruption fatigue," while law enforcement claims "conspiracy fatigue. Instate and federal agents started looking into allegations of foul play among county drug enforcement officers.
The six-year investigation ultimately netted guilty pleas from 22 officers who were charged with a long list of crimes, from pirating satellite television als to firebombing homes, kidnapping, perjury, drug trafficking, armed robbery, and money laundering. Robeson's current sheriff, Burnis Wilkins, worked for the Lumberton Police Department during the probe and later campaigned on a promise to halt drug trafficking and prostitution.
Wilkins says he cooperated with federal officials and maintains a good relationship. Last year, his office was tentatively reinstated into an asset forfeiture program it had been kicked out of after Operation Tarnished Badge; now, the department gets a cut of the cash and other goods seized from people accused of crimes.
However, recent events suggest things haven't changed much.
He was detained in the Bladen County Detention Center. Gavaghan is not being released yet by the sheriff's office.
Become a member!
In January, two law enforcement officials were ousted following an internal probe that revealed the department ignored a rape kit which held DNA evidence of a man who was later accused of kidnapping, raping, and killing a teenage girl. The sheriff's office had received from a rape kit that pointed to Michael Ray McLellan as the culprit in an attack on a Lumberton woman. But the department didn't take action. InMcLellan was charged with the murder of year-old Hania Aguilar, a harrowing crime that could have been prevented if those DNA hadn't been neglected.
He told a local news station "Unfortunately, there was a gap here of some kind. I don't know what happened—if [the report] got lost at the sheriff's department, if it got buried on somebody's desk, if it got placed in a records division there. It just vanished.
As a result, Major Anthony Thompson, a year department veteran, reed on January 9,followed by the retirement of Darryl Ray McPhatter in the department's Criminal Investigations unit. But the department never explained to the public what exactly went wrong. At the time, North Carolina led the nation in its backlog of untested rape kits. Robeson County typically held kits for more than 20 months before submission to the state database.
Examination of SBI crime data suggests many rape cases go unsolved there. In the last five years, the sheriff's office reports clearing only 26 of the 86 cases. Now, medical facilities and other agencies that collect rape kits must notify law enforcement within 24 hours of collection. The new law also mandates law enforcement pick up the kit within seven days and submit it to the lab within 45 days, with swift fines and penalties for failing to do so.
Lieutenant Vernon Johnson, who he a division of detectives overseeing violent crimes, said the law has helped with processing. Johnson didn't supervise the department at the time of the deaths of Bennett, Jones and Oxendine, but said the department had been in regular contact with families.
But ain't nobody come forward, because they're afraid, and the police know why. On April 25 of this year, an online rally highlighted the problems fueling the MMIW crisis in North Carolina and nationally, including racism, misclassifications, and the nation's deeply-rooted history of settler colonialism. Family members of MMIW victims spoke about their experiences and called for action from public officials.
Crowe's father worked as a police officer, and she recalls early stories of young women being kidnapped.
Her father often told his children not to go anywhere alone. She plans to study law at UC Berkeley. Cavailer Keck said the cold cases on and off tribal lands are examples of why the state should create a MMIW task force, law enforcement training, and a database that acknowledges the of victims who have been mostly invisible in this epidemic. Her sister, Katina Locklear, was raped and stabbed 14 times on a dirt road in Lumberton in Two suspects await trial in that case.
But we have a special place, and we are not going away. Raised on justice and sweet tea.
Become a Scalawag member. It takes more than good intentions to transform the South. It takes money. Donate today. What the hell is a Scalawag? About us. Photo by the author.
The southerners fighting for a better south.
Photo by Gerry Dincher via Flickr. Creative Commons. Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins. Photo from the website of the sheriff's office. Members of Shatter the Silence at a rally in November. Photo from the Shatter the Silence Facebook. Related stories. Antoinette Kerr. How the right to vote became a weapon of exclusion. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by .