Carnival worker charged with three counts of murder

Officials from Carter County Sheriff’s Office met with Washington County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office for a press conference to announce an arrest relating to a missing persons case in Carter County and Washington County, Va., which has officially led to three charges of capital murder.

Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman said officials have identified the suspect as 23-year-old Virginia resident James Wright.

“Wright has been charged with three counts of capital murder,” Newman said.

Among the three counts of murder are 25-year-old Athina Hopson of Johnson City, 22-year-old Elizabeth Vanmeter of Elizabethton and 17-year-old Joslyn Alsup of Cobb County, Ga.

Newman said Wright allegedly murdered three women in an 18-day period. He said Wright became acquainted with the women through his employment with the James H. Drew Carnival, which frequently tours the Washington County, Va. area. For Alsup, Newman said the suspect knew her father, a co-worker at the carnival.

The partnership between Washington, Va. and Carter counties started when the Johnson City Police Department inquired about a missing person case for Hopson roughly two weeks ago, who was reported missing on March 8. They said Hopson was last seen with Wright.

“The suspect alleged all three killings were accidental,” Newman said. “We find this hard to believe.”

Currently, officials are performing autopsies to confirm the bodies of Vanmeter and Alsup, though officials have yet to locate Hopson. The identities of Vanmeter and Alsup, Newman said, are currently based on the suspect’s statements.

He said they found the two bodies near Wright’s residence.

“A search was conducted of the properties surrounding Wright’s residence,” Newman said. “One body was recovered in a shallow grave site, and the other near some logs.”

When asked if the frequency of the alleged murders constituted the suspect as a serial killer Newman said it was likely.

“As far as we know, he had no criminal record,” he said.

Currently, Wright is held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon, Va.

Newman said anyone with information relating to the suspect or the three victims should call the Washington County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office at 276-676-6000.   

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