LUMBERTON — The investigation into the deaths of three women whose bodies were found more than a year ago in the eastern part of Lumberton didn’t get any help from the long-awaited autopsy results.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh recently ruled the causes of death for Megan Anne Oxendine, 28, Rhonda Jones, 36, and Christina Bennett, 32, all as “undetermined.”
Erich Hackney, an investigator with the Robeson County District Attorney’s Office, said the findings were expected, and the investigation continues.
“It was our understanding some time ago that the results from the Medical Examiner’s Office were most likely going to indicate a classification of undetermined; however this factor, nor the time we were waiting on the results, impaired this investigation as it has continued from the day these women were discovered and will continue until the case is closed, no matter how long it takes,” Hackney said.
Jones’ body was found April 18, 2017, in a trash container near a house on the 500 block of Peachtree Street. Bennett’s body was found the same day in a home on the 1900 block of Eastwood Terrace. On June 3, Oxendine’s body was found behind a home on the 600 block of Eighth Street. All three women lived in Lumberton. The bodies of all three were badly decomposed when they were found, making the cause of death more difficult to determine.
The discovery of the three women in such a state of decomposition prompted Hackney to reach out to the FBI for assistance, which local investigators still are receiving, along with support from local law enforcement agencies.
“The Lumberton Police Department and the FBI continue to investigate the deaths of Christina Bennett, Rhonda Jones, and Megan Oxendine,” according to an FBI statement. “Test results released by the Medical Examiner’s Office … do not change the focus of the death investigations.”
The FBI says investigators need the help of Lumberton residents to determine a timeline of when and where the women were last seen alive.
“At this time and considering the results released today, investigators are unable to say definitively whether or not any crimes were committed in the deaths of these women,” the FBI statement reads in part. “The FBI and the Lumberton Police Department continue to stress the importance of anyone with information coming forward, noting that their contributions could make them eligible for a reward of up to $30,000.”
The Lumberton Police Department will continue its investigation in the absence of leads from the autopsy results, Capt. Terry Parker said.
“It doesn’t change our investigations, as we are trying to determine the events prior to and immediately following their deaths as well as how they wound up where they were found,” he said.
Hackney remains optimistic that a continued investigation may turn up something that could be the missing link that may show how and why these three women died.
“The investigation by law enforcement will continue to focus on many aspects as to the facts and circumstances surrounding these deaths, including causation of death,” he said. “When causation is learned, the information will be shared with the ME’’s office, who may very well offer an addendum or amendment to their initial findings.”
After the three women’s bodies were found there were fears that there was a serial killer in the area, but local police were skeptical. All three women were known to be involved in drugs and work as prostitutes, leading to whispered speculation that they had met up with some bad drugs.
Hackney stressed that the investigation continues despite limited leads.
“Even though these investigations have quite a bit of age on them, rushing investigations creates issues when it comes to the eventual prosecution of the case,” he said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 704-672-6100, and press option No. 2, or the Lumberton Police Department at 910-671-3846.