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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired November 6, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: You know their faces. You know their names. But do you know their victims? If you think you know serial killers, think again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Authorities say they found the remains of six people at the property.
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For all the carnage and grief they cause, what is it that makes serial killers so hard to catch? How do many get away with it for so long? The answer in many cases is simple -- easy prey. Serial killers often target those who go unnoticed -- the missing, the vulnerable, the forgotten.
JAMES MCNAMARA, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: If you're an offender and you want to lower the risk that you're going to get identified and apprehended, you're going to look for the most vulnerable people you can.
BOUDREAU: And serial killers strike at the vulnerable across the country, from a river in Seattle, Washington, to a house in Cleveland, Ohio, even a country road in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, three different communities but each plagued by a string of serial murders, the victims all vulnerable women, preyed upon without mercy. To their killers, they meant nothing. But to their families, the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was a great mom, dependable, right there when she needed to be right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She loved sports. She was my little angel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, she would call me and say, Anybody told you today that they love you? And it would make my day.
BOUDREAU: In Cleveland, it's only the stench that hung over Imperial Avenue that anyone appeared to notice. Some blamed this sausage factory on the corner, others the sewers. At times, it was unbearable. The whole street smelled like death. And yet an entire city seems to hold its nose.
On October 29th, 2009, Cleveland police headed to Imperial Avenue, armed with a search warrant for Anthony Sowell, a convicted sex offender. They came to this home looking for a rape suspect, who was nowhere to be found. But what they walked into was unimaginable, in the living room two dead bodies, the first of many. Despite all the ominous warning signs, it was only at that moment Cleveland finally realized it had a serial killer.
(on camera): In the spring of 2007, women began disappearing into this Cleveland home. But by the time anyone figured out what was going on, 11 women had lost their lives.
GLADYS WADE, SURVIVOR: I'm known for the one that got away.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Gladys Wade (ph) will never forget that December night in 2008, that night she says Anthony Sowell nearly made her another victim of Imperial Avenue. According to Gladys, Sowell punched her in the face outside his home, knocking her out and dragging her inside, upstairs to an uncertain fate.
WADE: When I woke up, I started screaming. And he came through the door and he just started beating me. And (INAUDIBLE) going to die.
BOUDREAU: Instead, Gladys fought back and got away. She was bleeding badly from a gash in her thumb, but she was alive and running for help.
WADE: I ran over to the restaurant that was across the street. Can you call the police? Because this man just tried to kill me. And they told me that, no, that they didn't want to have nothing to do with it and that I had to get out their store because I was bleeding on their floor.
BOUDREAU: Gladys did finally manage to flag down two Cleveland police officers. She received medical care and told the officers what had happened to her. Anthony Sowell was arrested in his home.
(on camera): They actually went to the house?
WADE: They went in the house. They found my blood all up the stairs, on the walls, everywhere. They said it smelled so bad in there, they could not stand it. They had to get out of there. They said it smelled like nothing but death in that whole house.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Despite the smell of death in his house, Sowell didn't stay in police custody for long.
(on camera): How is it possible that they let him out of jail? What did they tell you?
WADE: They told us that they did not have enough evidence to keep him in jail and that he said I assaulted him.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Anthony Sowell was now back at home, and six more women would allegedly die by his hand.
(on camera): Does that just kind of keep you up at night?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of us lost a lot of sleep over this. You can't help it.
BOUDREAU: Because you had him.
BOUDREAU: Eleven women missing, murdered, and no one in Cleveland seemed to blink an eye.
WADE: At that time, I was (INAUDIBLE) Why me?
BOUDREAU: Gladys Wade could have easily been just another victim at this house on Imperial Avenue when she says her alleged attacker, Anthony Sowell, tried to kill her on the evening of December 8th, 2008. But she got away.
Police arrested Sowell that same night, but Gladys says she was told police didn't have enough evidence to hold him, so they let him go. No one knew at the time that bodies were piling up in his house.
Martin Flask is Cleveland's public safety director, the police chief's boss.
(on camera): Does that just kind of keep you up night?
MARTIN FLASK, CLEVELAND PUBLIC SAFETY DIRECTOR: A lot of us lost a lot of sleep over this. You can't help it.
BOUDREAU: Because you had him.
FLASK: Well, we had him, but perhaps we may have, under a different set of circumstances, knowing what you know now, maybe helped saved a couple victims.
FLASK: Potentially. But clearly, that didn't happen.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Crystal Dozier (ph) was 35 years old when she went missing in May 2007. She was like all of Sowell's alleged victims, she was poor and black. Like many, she struggled with addiction and had run-ins with police. But Crystal, like the others, was also more than just her mug shot. Florence Bray (ph) is Crystal's mother.
(on camera): What can you tell me about Crystal?
FLORENCE BRAY, CRYSTAL'S MOTHER: Crystal was a fun-loving person. She cared, took care of a lot of people, you know? She had her struggles with smoking crack. But after she did a couple of times in jail and she realized that that wasn't the right thing to be doing, so she started going back to church and getting her life back together.
CHARA DOZIER, CRYSTAL'S SISTER: It's painful. It's frustrating.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Chara Dozier is Crystal's younger sister. She's angry at police for not doing more to help find Crystal.
DOZIER: I can't speak for the other families, but I know what my family did. My niece still has a bag full of flyers where they was out here taping them to poles and stapling them to poles and passing them out everywhere. I know my family did all we could to help my sister.
BOUDREAU: They truly felt that law enforcement did not care about their loved ones because they were black, because they were poor, and some of them were addicted to drugs. Is that true?
FLASK: Well, I understand the question, but it's not true. But did we care? Absolutely we care. You know, this is our home. This is where we live. This is what we're sworn to serve and protect.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): But it would take two-and-a-half years from the time Crystal Dozier was reported missing and the deaths of 10 more women to finally find Crystal's body.
(on camera): Crystal Dozier died here at 12205 Imperial Avenue, she was then buried in a shallow grave right back there. She's believed to be Sowell's first victim.
BRAY: Two-and-a-half years we looked for my child, two-and-a-half years.
DOZIER: Long time.
BRAY: And all the time, she was over there in that yard decomposing.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): In a cruel twist, Crystal wasn't the only loved one Florence lost at the house on Imperial Avenue.
BRAY: I have two that he killed. I have a niece, Imelda Hunter (ph). Her and Crystal was in the grave. Imelda was on top of Crystal in the grave in the back yard.
BOUDREAU: Both women were buried in this makeshift grave discovered by police. These photos were taken from that day.
(on camera): How do you think this could have happened, 11 bodies in this house.
DOZIER: Because they just didn't care. Had they found her body, they probably would have saved most of the women. They probably could have saved my cousin. I'm angry at everybody. I mean, it starts at the top with Anthony Sowell, but I'm angry at everybody. They can call me an angry person. They can say what they want. But yes, I'm pissed off about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given the nature and the gruesomeness of the allegations that have placed against you...
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Anthony Sowell was arrested on October 31st, 2009, just two days after police stumbled on to his alleged house of death.
FLASK: We've had a lot of tragedies in this community, but certainly, this is one of the most significant things that has happened during my career.
BOUDREAU (on camera): How do you feel that this crime impacted this entire community?
FLASK: Oh, I think it was a polarizing event here in the city of Cleveland. There are some citizens in this community who lay the blame, the fault, at the victims because of lifestyle choices, and some blame the families for not reporting their loved ones missing from home. And there's others who are blaming law enforcement.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): For those who blame the police, they point to things like the lack of a central missing persons unit. At the time the women went missing, each district handled cases separately. But since these murders, some very basic changes have been made, like giving sex crime investigators their own cell phones.
(on camera): Did you say give them cell phones?
FLASK: Cell phones. Some did have, some didn't.
BOUDREAU: Some did not even have cell phones?
FLASK: That's correct. Some did not have cell phones.
BOUDREAU: How is that -- how...
FLASK: Well, we have communication equipment (INAUDIBLE) radio communications and telephones, but some did not have cell phones.
BOUDREAU: So clearly, that -- that...
FLASK: It was an easy recommendation. It was a problem, something that's been corrected.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): But no matter who is to blame or what changes have been made, it's too late for the victims of Imperial Avenue, Crystal Dozier, her sister.
DOZIER: It's a living nightmare. It's something that you never wake up from.
BOUDREAU: And her mother.
BRAY: It's real hard, but I do my best. I do my best to try to keep my head above the water, keep my head up. But the hurt -- in time, it'll be better, but it'll never go away. It will never go away.
BOUDREAU: Coming up, a serial killer in his own words.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you feeling?
GARY RIDGWAY, "GREEN RIVER KILLER": Kill, kill, kill, kill.
RIDGWAY: I used my hand, my arm. I pulled her back. I was choking her.
BOUDREAU: A serial killer speaks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the rage and the -- some of the -- I took the towel and wrapped it around their neck and pulled them and killed them.
BOUDREAU: A rare and disturbing glimpse into the mind of a sexual psychopath.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you thinking when you're doing this to this lady?
RIDGWAY: Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
BOUDREAU: Gary Ridgway, the Green River killer. For more than two decades, he murdered with impunity and terrorized Seattle, Washington. When he was finally caught in 2001, Ridgway had become one of the nation's most notorious and prolific serial killers.
RIDGWAY: I killed because I wanted to kill.
BOUDREAU: To escape the death penalty, Ridgway agreed to months of interrogations, all of it recorded, all of it chilling.
RIDGWAY: It was always the sex first, then the satisfaction of killing them after the sex.
BOUDREAU: This was Gary Ridgway's hunting ground, what locals call "the strip" in suburban Seattle, a collection of bars and dive motels frequented by prostitutes, Ridgway's victims of choice.
RIDGWAY: I can kill a prostitute and have a lot less chance of...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting caught.
RIDGWAY: ... getting caught because you don't know them, they don't know you. They're -- the police won't look as hard as they would if it was a senator's daughter or something, you know?
BOUDREAU: Throughout his 19-year killing spree, Ridgway dumped the bodies of as many as 70 women throughout the Seattle area, at the end of a runway, in the woods along rural roads, and of course, in the Green River.
MARK PROTHERO, RIDGWAY'S ATTORNEY: This is the Green River, the site of where the first five of Ridgway's victims were found.
BOUDREAU: Mark Prothero (ph) is Ridgway's attorney.
PROTHERO: One reason he left his victims together or at a certain site was so that he would have some ability to remember where they were and go back and visit those sites to relive the thrill of what he had done.
RIDGWAY: When it got to a point where I couldn't have sex with them anymore, I buried them. And (INAUDIBLE) as much as I can, so go out and kill another one.
BOUDREAU: Sometimes Ridgway killed as many as four women in a single week, yet this man with a below average IQ was never caught dumping a single body.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not that bright of a person, but it doesn't take that bright of a person to murder people.
BOUDREAU: Robert Keppel (ph) is an expert on serial killers. He consulted with the Green River police task force.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had honed his skills so well that he knew those victims better than they knew their friends and themselves.
BOUDREAU: Victims like Linda Janie Rule (ph), a prostitute, but also a daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It says, "Remembering the wonderful times we shared."
BOUDREAU: Her mother, Linda, still holds on to the postcard Janie sent her just days before she went missing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Mommy, sorry I didn't call back. Very sorry. Love you always and again," and Janie there.
BOUDREAU: For Janie, growing up was difficult. Her parents, Linda and Robert, divorced when she was just 3 but remarried 20 years later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Janie would rather go to her mom's because Mom was softer on her and I was too hard. And I shouldn't have been, I guess.
BOUDREAU: With her parents' rocky relationship at home, Janie began to wander. At 14, she ran away from home. Janie was living on the streets with her boyfriend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was somebody that our daughter thought that she was in love with. He was her boyfriend/pump. He put her out on the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These were women whose lifestyles were such that they did not regularly check in with their families or their loved ones.
BOUDREAU: Then FBI agent Mary O'Toole (ph) was one of the investigators who interviewed Ridgway.
MARY O'TOOLE, FMR. FBI AGENT: It gave him a lot of flexibility and a lot of latitude. It could be months before they would go reported missing, if at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The King County medical examiner says the skeleton had been there from anywhere between six months and a year.
BOUDREAU: Janie was missing for four months before her body was found. The police didn't immediately identify the body, but Linda knew what she saw on TV was her worst fear.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I saw was them bringing up the body bag, and I knew that was her because she was -- this body was found out by Northwest Hospital. So I knew that had to have been her.
BOUDREAU: Janie was just a 16-year-old girl when she was killed, not that it mattered to Gary Ridgway.
RIDGWAY: I did it because I hated them. They were just pieces of trash to me.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Initially, Ridgway was charged with just seven cases. Five of those bodies were found right in this area. But by the end of his confession, he'd be charged with 48 murders.
(voice-over): Coming up...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wasn't holding my breath.
BOUDREAU: How investigators finally closed in on the Green River killer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was really our last hope.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. Here are your headlines this hour. President Barack Obama is in India tonight, the first stop in a ten-day tour through Asia. He announced $10 billion in new contracts for U.S. exports to India, a move he says will deliver jobs back home.
And while in Mumbai, he honored the victims of the attacks there two years ago. He moves on to New Delhi tomorrow.
A new wrinkle in the Yemen package-terror plot: a source tells CNN that U.S. intelligence learned about a possible strike involving airplanes early last month. Saudi Arabia told the U.S. that something was in the works, but a U.S. counterterrorism official tells CNN that the information lacked specific details. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility Friday for the plot.
Meantime, Yemen is sending additional troops to capture Yemeni- American cleric linked to that group. Anwar al-Awlaki is charged with inciting the killings of foreigners in Yemen.
Jurors in New Haven, Connecticut will be back at work tomorrow in the death penalty phase in a brutal home invasion that killed three members of the Petit family. After deliberating all day, the jury asked to be dismissed about 4:00 P.M. Eastern. Based on jurors' questions to the judge, it appears they are deciding whether there are any mitigating factors that would spare Stephen Hayes the death penalty. If they do, Hayes will spend the rest of his life in prison.
I'm Don Lemon. Those are your headlines this hour. A CNN Special Investigation EASY PREY continues next.
GARY RIDGWAY, SERIAL KILLER: Here's a guy who's not going muzzle (ph) down, just an ordinary John. And yet, that was their downfall. My appearance was different from what I really was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right?
RIDGWAY: Pretty good.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Gary Ridgway's unassuming personality allowed him a 19-year killing spree, which took the lives of dozens of girls. More than half of the victims were under 18. Like Debra Estes, 15; Shawnda Summers, 16; and Linda Jane Rule, 16.
Critics say a controversial law at the time made Washington State a refuge for runaways, juveniles who fell through the cracks, young and vulnerable - just what Ridgway was looking for.
MARY O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI AGENT: He had like the perfect storm. He could access them at night under the cover of darkness, and he could access a lot of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than 45 women have apparently fallen victim to the murder, making him -
BOUDREAU: Gary Ridgway had long been a person of interest in the infamous Green River killings, but by 2001, the cases had gone cold.
DET. TOM JENSEN, GREEN RIVER TASK FORCE DETECTIVE: Gary Ridgway was first contacted -
BOUDREAU: According to Detective Tom Jensen, Ridgway had been questioned as far back as 1982.
JENSEN: He was arrested on what I think what we call a John Patrol, a decoy prostitute was placed on the street.
BOUDREAU: In 1983, Ridgway was questioned about the disappearance of a 15-year-old prostitute named Marie Malvar.
JENSEN: In '84, he was reported as having assaulted another prostitute.
BOUDREAU: In 1985, Ridgway was even questioned about choking a prostitute, one who escaped his hands. In 1987, Ridgway's home was searched and police took a saliva swab in hopes of determining his blood type. He was under constant surveillance by the Green River Task Force. Again and again, there was never enough evidence to charge him.
But by 2001, DNA technology had advanced and Jensen took one last shot. He resubmitted the swab test.
JENSEN: You know, I was holding my breath. It was really our last hope.
BOUDREAU: The DNA test came back with a positive match for Gary Ridgway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today at approximately 3:00 P.M., detectives from the King County Sheriff's Office arrested a 52-year-old man for investigation of homicide. The man arrested is Gary Leon Ridgway.
BOUDREAU: When he was finally captured, investigators found family photos of Ridgway's picture perfect life, the Green River killer was married, had a 26-year-old son, and had worked the same job for more than 30 years, painting trucks at this plant.
JAMES MCNAMARA, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS: Everybody wants to see the monster in the neighborhood, the guy with the trench coat, hiding behind the tree and - and quite often these guys aren't - aren't physically or behaviorally monsters in the workplace and the neighborhood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a scale, say, one to five and five being the worst possible evil person that could have done this kind of thing, where do you want to fall in this scale?
RIDGWAY: I'd be a three.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three?
RIDGWAY: One thing is I killed them but I didn't torture them. They went fast.
O'TOOLE: He did not see himself as a bad person. He did not see himself as an evil person. He saw himself as a very competent serial killer who should stand out in the history books.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you plead in the charge of aggravated murder in the first-degree as charged in Count 19 for the death of Linda Rule?
BOUDREAU: Facing the death penalty, Ridgway confessed to 48 murders -
BOUDREAU: -- in an exchange for a life sentence.
RIDGWAY: They're raising my sexual part and my hate jump. I had to kill them (ph).
BOUDREAU: As part of his plea deal, Ridgway agreed to speak with investigators in grim detail about his two decade long killing spree.
RIDGWAY: Pleasure in killing is to be, you know, be controlled, to have - have sex with them if I wanted them afterwards and to take away another woman so she wouldn't hurt anybody else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So she wouldn't hurt anybody else?
RIDGWAY: You know, like my ex-wifes did and everything. BOUDREAU: Ridgway also led a series of gruesome field trips pointing investigators to as many bodies and dump sites as he could remember.
RIDGWAY: This is when I - I took to work and I killed her in the morning on the way to work.
BOUDREAU (on camera): From those field trips, he remembered the details of exactly where he dumped the body.
MARK PROTHERO, GARY RIDGWAY'S ATTORNEY: Yes.
BOUDREAU: Were you surprised by that, 20 years later, he's pointing out exactly, oh, this is where - this is where it happened?
PROTHERO: It was - it was surreal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could we walk down there to that tree? It looks familiar.
PROTHERO: He wouldn't remember faces or names.
BOUDREAU: He just remembered where he dumped the bodies.
PROTHERO: He would remember them basically by where he dumped their bodies.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Just as he did in the case of Linda Jane Rule.
RIDGWAY: I killed her at that site.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you think we found her?
RIDGWAY: Yes, you found her across from Northwest Hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Linda Rule?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Linda Jane Rule? So you -
RIDGWAY: I don't remember her name.
BOUDREAU: Robert Rule remembers the day in court when he faced his daughter's killer.
ROBERT RULE, FATHER OF LINDA JANE RULE: Mr. Ridgway, I had prayed for about two or three weeks before as to what to say. There are people here that hate you. I'm not one of them. I forgive you for what you have done.
It's a commandment that you forgive thy enemy and it doesn't - God doesn't say to forgive just one, you've got to forgive all.
So you are forgiven, sir.
BOUDREAU: While Ridgway pleaded guilty to 48 murders, his name has been connected to as many as 70 deaths. But the larger question of why he killed so many remains.
Coming up, murders and a mystery in a small southern town.
BOUDREAU: There's a mystery unfolding outside Rocky Mount, North Carolina. During the last several years, nine women have gone missing.
ANDRE KNIGHT, ROCKY MOUNT CITY COUNCIL: You see very little activity on this road, it's very secluded. So if someone was trying to hide something, this would be an ideal place.
BOUDREAU: One after another, the nine women would turn up dead.
A. KNIGHT: Most of the bodies that were found were so decomposed, just the bone, just the skeleton.
BOUDREAU: Many of their bodies naked, dumped in the woods and many were hidden here, along Seven Bridges Road.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Talk of a serial killer was spreading throughout this community, someone was targeting black women. All of them were poor, many of them were addicted to drugs and were prostitutes working these streets in this neighborhood.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Andre Knight is a city councilman in Rocky Mount. He grew up here and knew some of the women who were killed. He became concerned when multiple women started disappearing from the streets.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Why do you think these particular women were targeted by a possible serial killer?
A. KNIGHT: Because they felt that no one probably would have missed them. That nothing much would have been said about their disappearance.
BOUDREAU: Easy targets?
A. KNIGHT: Easy targets, exactly.
BOUDREAU: Jackie Wiggins' daughter, Nikki Thorpe, was the fourth woman to go missing.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Tell me a little bit about your daughter.
JACKIE WIGGINS, MOTHER OF NIKKI THORPE: She was a high spirited, always had a smile. Didn't know any strangers. She was a good mom, like a sister instead of mom I'm in charge type person. She was always, you know, my perfect little girl.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Jackie didn't realize her daughter was in trouble.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): At what point did you start seeing there might be a problem here.
WIGGINS: I really didn't see a problem, except her friends changed.
BOUDREAU: What kind of drugs did she use?
WIGGINS: As far as I knew, it was marijuana, but I later found out cocaine in crack form.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): In May, 2007, Jackie became worried. She was helping raise Nikki's five children and Nikki hadn't called or stopped by in days. She feared the worst.
WIGGINS: I reported her missing on the fourth day. I called and said I think something's going on.
BOUDREAU (on camera): What did they tell you?
WIGGINS: Truthfully, I told them more than they told me. Because me and two or three of my girlfriends would go to the areas where they roamed, just checking and so I would call like every two or three days, have you heard anything? No, Ms. Wiggins. Have you heard anything? And I'm feeding them what I have learned just by going through the streets and -
BOUDREAU: Did you feel like they were taking your missing persons report seriously at all?
WIGGINS: I really don't think they took it as a mom reporting her child missing, I don't.
BOUDREAU: You think they heard prostitute, drug addict?
WIGGINS: I did. Yes, I did.
BOUDREAU: Did you feel like they were taking your missing persons report seriously at all?
WIGGINS: I really don't think they took it as a mom reporting her child missing. I don't.
BOUDREAU: You think they heard prostitute, drug addict?
WIGGINS: I do. Yes, I do.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): John Manley is the police chief in Rocky Mount, where many of the women were reported missing.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Some of the family members tell us they did not feel like the police department took the missing persons report seriously enough.
CHIEF JOHN MANLEY, ROCKY MOUNT POLICE: We make a diligent effort to look for anyone, regardless of whatever their socioeconomic class may be. So I understand what they're saying, but it's just not true.
BOUDREAU: Did their lifestyle make it even more challenging for you to try to find these people?
MANLEY: The bottom line is it's hard trying to track someone that does not really have a true pattern that their own loved ones can follow.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): On August 17, 2007, three months after she disappeared, Nikki Thorpe was found dead. All that remained was her decomposed body, a pair of socks, and green underwear behind this burned down house off Seven Bridges Road.
BOUDREAU (on camera): When you got that knock on the door, what was that like?
WIGGINS: Relief, hurt, the anger. How am I going to tell the - her kids? And I was so, so frustrated with the police, because I really felt if they had really taken me seriously, you know, bust into some of these houses I told them about, even though she wasn't found in any one of those houses - you know, none of that was done.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Seven months after Nikki's body was found, another woman's remains were discovered less than a mile away on the same road. That's when Chief Manley says he began to wonder if the deaths were somehow connected.
MANLEY: I think any reasonable person would conclude that they didn't go out there and just lay down and die, in all - in a certain, particular area. They wouldn't have done that. Someone had to have assisted in their deaths (ph).
BOUDREAU (on camera): A serial killer?
MANLEY: In my opinion, this is exactly what we're dealing with.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): But as the profiles of the victims emerged, Councilman Andre Knight says authorities didn't seem to care.
A. KNIGHT: I was told several times by many people involved in this case it was not a priority to investigate the women that were being killed because they were drug addicts, crack heads and prostitutes.
BOUDREAU (on camera): But when we interviewed the chief, he said that that did not have an impact on the way that they handled this case at all.
A. KNIGHT: Well, I beg to differ. When you look at the women that are dead, and you look at the faces, they look like me. And, in my opinion, I think it would have been a greater outcry and greater resources would have been put on the ground if those women were white women.
BOUDREAU: And look more like me?
A. KNIGHT: And looked more like you. BOUDREAU (voice-over): Chief Manley says the victims' race and class had nothing to do with how they handled the cases. But one thing remains beyond dispute - the killings did not stop.
One year later, another woman would be killed, and her body dumped near Seven Bridges Road.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Deep in rural North Carolina, a killer was on the loose, preying on women and dumping many of their bodies along the same road.
Tahara Nicholson disappeared in February, 2009, her body discovered two weeks later, a potential break in the case. Tahara was just 28 years old and had two young children. Her mother, Diana, is now raising them.
BOUDREAU (on camera): What is it that you miss so much about her?
DIANA NICHOLSON, MOTHER OF TAHARA SHENICE NICHOLSON: She's just fun. I mean, she keeps you laughing.
I just can't believe that someone took her. That was my baby.
BOUDREAU: She's your baby?
NICHOLSON: (INAUDIBLE) so much for her death (ph).
BOUDREAU (voice-over): In April, 2009, a possible lead in the case. A search warrant filing a year later shows a state trooper was called to Seven Bridges Road. There, they found this man, Antwan Pittman, asleep in his car. He had dirt on his boots, and his zipper was down. Pittman was charged with driving while impaired.
Two months later, the body of Jarniece Hargrove was found lying just 200 yards from where Pittman slept in his car. A medical examiner report would show she died approximately the same day that Pittman was found on Seven Bridges Road.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Though Police Chief Manley says he had suspicions of a possible serial killer after the first two bodies were found on the same road, it wasn't until more than a year later, on the same day Jarniece's body was found, that Sheriff James Knight formed a task force.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Andre Knight and many of the victims' families say it was far too late.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Do you feel that if more was done sooner, that lives could have been saved?
A. KNIGHT: If more was done, quite a few lives would have been saved.
BOUDREAU: After the second body was found and you're thinking we might have a serial killer on our hands -
BOUDREAU: -- why not search that entire area for more bodies?
MANLEY: Honestly, the only answer I can give you is this one. Decision making for law enforcement in the city of Rocky Mount is me. But when it gets into the county, you're dealing with a - a whole another person as an authority that calls the shots. Whatever their decision is, is we follow.
BOUDREAU: Would you have done it the same way?
MANLEY: I - it's hard to say what I would have done.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): While many of the women went missing in Rocky Mount, most of their bodies were found in Edgecombe County, where Sheriff James Knight was responsible for the investigation.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Why didn't you go to the public sooner to let them know they might be dealing with a serial killer in their own community?
SHERIFF JAMES KNIGHT, EDGECOMBE COUNTY POLICE: You have to take into consideration, you want to arrest this person, but, at the same time, you want to be able to convict them. And, in a case such as this, you have to be very careful what you put out into the public.
BOUDREAU: If you've had it your way, you would have done things differently?
MANLEY: I am an open, out front type of guy. There's nothing that I would withhold from the general public that I think they had a right to know and a need to know and timely (ph).
BOUDREAU: If you would have told the public early on that, listen, there might be a pattern here, do you think it could have saved lives?
MANLEY: I don't know. I don't know.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): It's a question Diana Nicholson thinks about all the time. In fact, it would be the death of her daughter Tahara that would ultimately lead to the only murder charge for any of the deaths.
In September, 2009, Antwan Pittman was indicted for Tahara's murder. Pittman was already a registered sex offender because of a felony conviction involving a child. The search warrant filing in March, 2010 shows Pittman's DNA was found on Tahara's body, and, it says, there's probable cause to believe Pittman was also involved in the deaths of Nikki Thorpe, Jarniece Hargrove, and two other women.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Do you think Antwan Pittman is the serial killer?
MANLEY: I think Antwan Pittman is a strong person of interest, as I stated before, in a number of those cases along Seven Bridges Road, and since his arrest, there has not been one person that was reported missing, since that date, that has been found dead, harmed in any way whatsoever.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Pittman has pleaded not guilty to the one murder charge against him, and is behind bars, awaiting trial. Pittman's defense attorney says he does not see Pittman being charged with anything else.
Nikki Thorpe's mother, Jackie Wiggins is still overcome with grief. For the first time, she visited the site where Nikki's body was found.
WIGGINS: OK. OK. OK.
BOUDREAU (on camera): We've been told that she was found right here.
WIGGINS: (INAUDIBLE) have to be so cold (ph)?
I know she knows I'm trying. She knows I'm not going to be satisfied until something is done, something, some way.
OK. OK. All ready.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): A country road outside Rocky Mount, North Carolina, a river in Seattle, Washington, a house in Cleveland, Ohio. So many serial murders, so many victims, targeted because they were vulnerable, because they were easy prey.
Their killers thought no one would care, but everyone is somebody's somebody. These are not the faces of the forgotten.