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A traveling carnival worker from Virginia has confessed to killing two Tennessee women and a Georgia teen girl, all within a one-month period, investigators say.
James Michael Wright, 23, has been arrested and charged with three counts of capital murder after he allegedly confessed to killing all three victims in “accidental” shootings, according to a statement from the Washington County Virginia Sheriff’s Office.
In a press conference Monday, Sheriff Fred Newman said the claim the deaths were accidental was “hard to believe,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Wright met all three alleged victims through his job as a subcontractor for James H. Drew Exposition, a carnival, and was linked to the crimes after reports surfaced claiming Wright was the last person seen with the third victim, Athena Hopson, 25.
Hopson, a resident of Johnson City, Tennessee, was reported missing by her cousin on March 21, 2019. After investigators issued a search warrant for Wright’s vehicle, they discovered the missing woman’s cell phone inside, according to authorities.
Wright allegedly confessed to the crimes on May 9. Investigators would then conduct a search of his Mendota, Virginia residence and discover two bodies: those of Elizabeth Marie Vanmeter, 22, and Joslyn M. Alsup, 17.
Vanmeter, the first of the three victims, was killed on or around February 28 after the pair got into an argument, the sheriff’s office said. Authorities said he shot her and buried her near his home. She was reported missing nearly three weeks later by her parents, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
Just a few weeks later, Alsup, the daughter of one of Wright’s coworkers, was killed on or about March 9, 2019. According to court documents obtained by WJHL, Alsup and Wright had sex in the woods near his home. He then said he tried to shoot an animal, but accidentally shot Wright instead and covered her body with some logs near a creek.
Hopson was killed on March 17 while the two were taking a walk near his home. He told investigators he accidentally shot her in the head after he tripped and fell, court records said. He reportedly claimed that he tried to put her body in his truck to take her to the hospital but the body fell out while he was driving over a bridge, so he told authorities he put her into the river instead.
He allegedly told authorities all three women were shot with the same .22 caliber rifle that he stored at his grandparent’s home.
Newman said investigators are now trying to determine whether there are other missing women in areas where the carnival may have stopped.
In addition to the murder charges, Wright is also facing three counts of using a firearm in committing a murder and three counts of concealment of a dead body.
He is being held without bond at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail.
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