Police in need of break in probe of 3 deaths

By many accounts, 32-year-old Christina Bennett, 35-year-old Rhonda Jones and 28-year-old Megan Anne Oxendine had lived difficult lives that included drugs and most likely prostitution, probably to pay for their bad habits, and their lifestyles certainly put them in harm’s way.

But months after their badly decomposed bodies were found in the eastern part of Lumberton, a once vibrant part of the city that has fallen on hard times, police don’t know if these three women died at their own hands, perhaps by overdosing or through the use of a bad batch of drugs, or if they died violently, at the hands of someone who might kill again. The latter is the broader worry.

Police say there were no obvious signs of trauma to any of the bodies, such as a recovered bullet or blunt force, but the condition of the bodies might have hidden something that otherwise would have been apparent.

Police continue to wait on the Office of the State Medical Examiner for some clarity. When that might happen, is anyone’s guess as that office is understaffed and overworked.

As each day passes without any satisfying answers, a couple of things happen: The memory of these women dulls, and although their lives were difficult, they had loved ones, and all were young, with time to change their destiny. Also speculation about what happened to these women grows — much of it uninformed, and with a bend toward worst-case scenarios.

We will share that the whispered words of people who have the best information are that these women most likely died from drugs — and that toxicology results, when they do become available, will confirm that. It doesn’t stretch the imagination to consider that all three might have succumbed to the same toxic batch of drugs.

But if that happened, left unexplained is how their bodies got to where they were ultimately found.

The bodies of Bennett, who lived on 1900 block of Eastwood Terrace, and Jones, of Troy Drive, were discovered April 18. One was found inside a house at 505 Peachtree St. and the other in a nearby trash container. The body of Oxendine, who lived on the 700 block of Dwight Road, was found in tall weeds behind an abandoned house on East Eighth Street.

While is is conceivable Bennett and Oxendine died where they were found, it is clear that someone placed Jones’ body into a trash can. But who?

Adding intrigue — but odds favor as being coincidence — is that Oxendine was interviewed by a television news crew after the discovery of the first two bodies.

Lumberton police are frank about where the investigation is, and that is pretty much nowhere. Toxicology results, when they arrive, might give the cause of the deaths, but they certainly won’t answer all the questions.

Police say they have received tips, but those leads are exhausted, and they await more. Someone knows something, and that information can be shared anonymously by calling the Lumberton Police Department at 910-671-3845.

Bennett, Jones and Oxendine should be allowed to rest in peace. The rest of us, especially those who live in the neighborhoods where the bodies were found, deserve to live with peace of mind.