The statistics on missing and murdered Indigenous people are distressing enough — the National Congress of American Indians reports that Native Americans are more than twice as likely to experience violent crimes compared to all other races.
Even more distressing is that it is widely acknowledged that these cases are vastly under-reported because of a number of reasons, such as racial misidentification on reports or because victims are left out of federal databases because they belong to tribes that are not federally recognized (such as North Carolina’s Lumbee and Haliwa-Saponi tribes).
And many of these cases go unsolved.
Earlier this year, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, created a new Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office to pressure the federal government to investigate these cases.
The recent arrest in the nine-year-old murder case of Faith Hedgepeth, a UNC-Chapel Hill student who was also a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe, is bringing attention once again to the issue of missing and/or murdered Indigenous people in the state.
Here are some of the more well-known cases from recent years.
For more information, visit Native Womens Wilderness at nativewomenswilderness.org/mmiw.
Katina Locklear, Tuscarora Tribe, Robeson County: 46-year-old Katina Locklear’s body was found at the end of a dirt road in Pembroke in December 2018. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 14 times. She left behind four children and two grandchildren. SOLVED: Two Pembroke men were charged with her murder.
A number of Lumbee women in Robeson County disappeared or were killed in 2017, many of them in close proximity to each other. The publicity from this cluster of cases has raised questions about the possibility of a serial killer preying on women there. Here are some of those cases.
Rhonda Jones, Lumbee, Robeson County: Rhonda Jones was found upside-down and naked inside a trash can on East Fifth Street in Lumberton, on April 18, 2017. UNSOLVED.
Christina “Kristi” Bennett, Robeson County: 32-year-old Christina Bennett, who is not Native American, was found murdered inside a residence on Peachtree Street in Lumberton on April 18, 2017, near the site where Jones’ body was also discovered. UNSOLVED.
Megan Oxendine, Lumbee, Robeson County: The body of 28-year-old Megan Oxendine was found behind a vacant home on East Eighth Street in Lumberton on June 3, 2017, two blocks from where Jones and Bennett were found. Her family believed she may have known about the other killings. UNSOLVED.
Cynthia Jacobs, Lumbee, Robeson County: Cynthia Jacobs, 41, was last seen July 17, 2017, in East Lumberton. UNSOLVED.
Sara Nicole Graham, Lumbee, Robeson County: 18-year-old Sara Nicole Graham went missing in February 2015, on her way to work at Walmart in Pembroke. Her car was found abandoned in a field later that day. She has never been found. UNSOLVED.
Lauren Holmes, Lumbee, Robeson County: 23-year-old Lauren Holmes was found shot to death in a canal on Holly Swamp Church Road in Pembroke in March 2013. UNSOLVED.
Brittany Locklear, Lumbee, Hoke County: Five-year-old Brittany Locklear disappeared from her family’s driveway in southern Hoke County on Jan. 7, 1998. The abduction happened while Brittany was waiting for the school bus at the end of her driveway. Brittany’s mother had been waiting with her but went inside for a moment. When she returned, Brittany was gone. After a massive search by authorities and hundreds of volunteers, Brittany’s body was found the next day in a drainage ditch on a farm road three miles away. The child had been raped and drowned. A neighbor said she witnessed Brittany’s abduction and described the suspect as a white man driving a full-size pickup truck. UNSOLVED.
Do you know something?
If you have information about these crimes, you can leave an anonymous tip for the Robeson County Sheriff’s Department at robesoncoso.org/reach-out/tips, or contact the NC State Bureau of Investigation at 800-334-3000.