A woman forgotten in life and death

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram
Saturday, October 24, 2009

She was missing for at least a year, but nobody seemed to notice. Even in February, after a prison work crew found the skeletal remains of a small-framed female in a thicket near U.S. 64, no one stepped forward to claim the body.

Eight months later on Oct. 12, when authorities finally identified the remains, the medical examiner concluded the 33-year-old Rocky Mount woman had been dead at least a year, maybe longer.

Elizabeth Jane Smallwood — a woman seemingly without a family, without a history, without a home — was never reported missing.

Continue reading “A woman forgotten in life and death”

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Portrait of a suspected serial killer

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Published Aug. 24, 2010

Antwan Maurice Pittman was born on July 15, 1978 and raised by his single, teen mother. Those who knew him said he was normal child.

Three decades later, he is at the center of an investigation into perhaps the most heinous crime in Rocky Mount history.

Pittman is either a suspect or person of interest in six out of nine cases in which the decomposing bodies of Rocky Mount women have been found naked and scattered in fields across three counties over seven years.

The grisly crimes have shined a national spotlight on Rocky Mount and have raised questions about how issues of class, race and gender shade the way missing person reports are treated by police and in the media.

Despite the attention, little is known about the 31-year-old man who investigators say might be a serial killer. Continue reading “Portrait of a suspected serial killer”

Governor for east, west or all?

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Published November 1, 2008

RALEIGH — The contest to replace Gov. Mike Easley has at times been reduced to a verbal battle of regions in its final weeks, with each candidate drawing lines in the dirt between rural and urban North Carolina and pointing to the other for blame.

Republican Pat McCrory, a big-city mayor from the west, says he wants to break up the “good ole boy network of power elites” in Raleigh.

Democrat Bev Perdue, a small-town politician from the east, says her 20 years of experience in the state capital make her the most qualified candidate to lead North Carolina.

Both candidates agree the economy is the top issue this election cycle, but the race seems to have veered off topic.

Continue reading “Governor for east, west or all?”

Expectations run high for new president

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Published Jan. 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama began the work today of “remaking America,” a tall order for a 47-year-old first-term president, given the dismal state of the economy and with wars waging in the Middle East.

But perhaps even more challenging for Obama will be balancing soaring public expectations for his presidency with sobering reality.

Continue reading “Expectations run high for new president”

Obama wins North Carolina, a changing state

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Published Nov. 6, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama didn’t need North Carolina to become the first black man elected to the White House, but earning a majority of the votes here was a symbolic triumph in a state with a history mired by segregation and slavery.

Obama was declared the winner of North Carolina on Thursday, two days after state election officials announced the race too close to call. His win here was the first for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976.

A generation ago, few Rocky Mount residents would have guessed a black man would carry the state in a presidential contest. But on Thursday, local residents began discussing the implications of Obama’s victory in the Tar Heel State.

Continue reading “Obama wins North Carolina, a changing state”

Green advocates see potential post-election

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Published Nov. 12, 2008

Even as results were trickling in last week, North Carolina environmentalists had begun celebrating an election that promises a paradigm shift toward green energy and environmental sustainability.

So says Carl Samuelson, a 23-year-old campaign organizer for the Raleigh-based Environment North Carolina. Samuelson and other advocates see great potential to build a green-energy economy once Barack Obama is in the White House and oilmen President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are out.

Continue reading “Green advocates see potential post-election”