LUMBERTON — Four people were arrested Wednesday and charged with killing a man and a woman whose bodies were found Tuesday in a field south of Fairmont.
Patrick Leon Gatlin, 31, of 21 Eagle Wood Loop, Lumberton; Juwon Montael Lewis, 24, and Tiffany Leann Smith, both of 48 Alicia Drive, Lumberton; and Anitriel Ray, 37, of 7611 N.C. 401 North, Lumberton, were each charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree kidnapping and two counts of felony suspicion, according to Sheriff Kenneth Sealey.
Gatlin was also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.
The arrests were in connection with the deaths of Ashley Nicole Smith, 33, and Matthew “Matt” Steven McCray, 31, both of Lumberton.
At about 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, multiple law enforcement agencies searched the Eagle Wood Mobile Home Park off N.C. 41 North, which led to the arrests. Sealey said more arrests are possible as the investigation is not done.
The aunt of one of the victims said she is having a hard time believing her niece is gone forever.
“I got the call about seven or eight o’clock. It was confirmed that it was her. All I was thinking is, ‘It is not Ashley,’” Angie Roller said. “I still can’t believe it.”
Smith and McCray dated for almost two years, Angie Roller said.
Ashley Smith worked as an assistant deli manager at a grocery store in Lumberton for five years, Angie Roller said. After meeting Matt, she lost her job, and her family saw her less and less.
“Ashley had her issues, yes, she did, but she was good person.” she said. “She was selfless, she always did stuff for her elder family members without being asked. Again, that changed soon after she met Matt.”
Codie Roller said her cousin Ashley made mistakes as many people have, but described her as a great person who left three young children behind.
“The last time I seen her was in December, and I told her I loved her and gave her a hug. I told her I just wanted her to get help,” Codie Roller said. “I just wish she would have took the help. I hope our family gets justice soon.”
Angie Roller said Ashley was in denial about her addiction but knew she wanted a more stable environment for her children. She was worried about her children and asked her family to take them in about a year ago.
“She loved her young’uns. She was there when her family needed her,” Angie Roller said.
All three children, boys ages 12 and 14 and a 10-year-old girl, are being cared by their grandfather, Billy Smith, who lives in South Carolina.
He was too upset to talk about the loss of his daughter.
“My daughter just died,” Smith said. “I really don’t want to talk about this right now.”
Even though her niece didn’t want to be found at times, she should have followed her gut, Angie Roller said.
“If we didn’t see her in couple days, we’d ask around on social media and locate her,” she said. “The last time I went looking for her, she told us to stop asking around for her. She was upset.”
Angie Roller said she should have ignored her niece’s request.
“There are a lot of regrets,” she said. “We should of looked for her every other day, like we been doing.”
Ashley’s family is waiting for an autopsy to be performed. Funeral arrangements can only be made after the body is released, Angie Roller said.
The investigation continues.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 910-671-3100.
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at email@example.com or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.