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Man charged with three counts of murder

Man charged with three counts of murder”

Two missing women and a missing teenage girl were shot to death by a carnival worker who met them through the traveling show, authorities in Virginia say.

According to a release from the Washington County Sheriff's Office, investigators from the Johnson City (Tenn.) Police Department sought the help of Washington County deputies in investigating a missing-person case in which the subject, Athina Hopson, 25, of Johnson City, had last been seen in the company of James Michael Wright, 23, of Mendota. Newman said Wright admitted to fatally shooting all three women, but Wright said the killings were accidental - a claim Newman said investigators find "hard to believe".

Wright said he shot and killed Hopson on or about March 17, according to the report. Wright said he put her body in the back of his truck but it fell out while he was driving.

Authorities said that Wright murdered 17-year-old Joslyn Alsup, 22-year-old Elizabeth Marie Vanmeter and 25-year-old Athina Hopson.

Investigators plan on contacting other jurisdictions along the East Coast where Wright worked as a carnival employee to see if they have any missing person cases that may have connections to him, Newman said.

Autopsies are being performed on the bodies that were recovered, and positive identification of the bodies that have been found will be based on autopsy reports.

Wright confessed to shooting and killing Hopson while they were on a walk on March 17, according to the documents. She was reported missing out of Carter County, Tennessee. She was killed on or about February 28, and Wright said her death was the result of an argument, according to the sheriff's office.

Inside Wright's totaled truck, Newman said, police soon found Hopson's cellphone. Wright allegedly shot and killed her the next day. Newman said Wright could be considered a serial killer.

When officers executed a search of properties surrounding Wright's home on Mendota Road on Friday, they recovered two human bodies believed to be those of Vanmeter and Alsup.

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On the evening of that killing, Wright posted a meme on Facebook from another account that appears to be his. Hopson was supposed to return March 18, and when she didn't, the cousin contacted police.

Authorities continue to search for the body of Hopson, which Wright claimed to have thrown into the river.

"Yes, this one individual lived in the community, but it was, in my opinion, an isolated incident", said Newman.

"What was going through this man's head?" she said.

Newman said he has no reason to believe Wright meant to harm himself by crashing into the bus two days after allegedly killing Hopson.

Now, he said, police are working with the Drew Exposition carnival company to trace its route along the coast and throughout the Southeast.

Investigators at this time have no evidence suggesting that there are additional victims out there, but state authorities assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Marshals Service are working with Wright's employer to determine all the places the travelling carnival had visited to see if people were reported missing there. Wright then claimed he dumped her body in a local river, Newman said.

Wright is being held without bail in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney.

This article was written by Meagan Flynn, a reporter for The Washington Post.



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