Sheriff: Carnival worker from Virginia shot, killed 3 women

Police say James Michael Wright killed three women between the ages of 17 and 25

Police say James Michael Wright killed three women between the ages of 17 and 25

Thoughts and prayers poured in from friends and family, as well as from his colleagues at a traveling carnival.

Proctor told The Associated Press that he's had one short meeting with Wright but can not discuss the conversation.

"Have u seen athina", he wrote. The three killings took place in Washington County, Va.

Authorities in Virginia have linked the slayings of two missing women and a missing teenage girl to a carnival worker who met the victims through the traveling show.

James Michael Wright, 23, faces three counts of capital murder, the sheriff's office in Washington County, Virginia announced in a news release Monday. Newman said Wright's claim that the deaths were accidental is "hard to believe based on the information we have". He claimed he was trying to shoot an animal when he shot the 17-year-old.

Newman told the NBC affiliate that one of the major breaks in the case came when a cellphone, belonging to Hopson, was found inside Wright's truck when it was impounded after a March 19 crash.

The investigation has established that Hopson was last seen in wright's company in March.

Wright was not on police's "radar", Sheriff Newman said. On his property, they found two bodies.

Sheriff Fred Newman identified the victims as 25-year-old Athina Hopson of Johnson City, Tennessee; 22-year-old Elizabeth Marie Vanmeter of Carter County, Tennessee; and 17-year-old Joslyn M. Alsup of Cobb County, Georgia. Alsup's father worked with Wright at the carnival, Newman said. Newman said crews will continue to search the Holston River to find Hopson's body. "Basically, this individual killed three women within about an 18-day period". "The accident he had two days after the last killing certainly put an end to that series of incidents". Hopson was reported missing by her mother on March 21, authorities said. He allegedly told investigators he killed her on March 17 after tripping and accidentally shooting her in the head, according to the warrant.

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Wright does not appear to have a criminal background. Wright allegedly shot and killed her the next day.

Citing court documents, WJHL-TV reported that Wright told investigators he shot and killed Vanmeter after a fight. Newman said investigators uncovered the weapon. According to WBIR, Vanmeter's caretaker claimed she was cognitively disabled and had the mental capacity of a 13-year-old.

According to Newman, Wright told cops he shot Hopson on March 17 and was transporting her body when it fell out of his truck and rolled down a hill and into a river, where it was later found.

Newman said he has no reason to believe Wright meant to harm himself by crashing into the bus two days after allegedly killing Hopson. Newman declined to say what the motive was for the killings.

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

"We have plans of contacting jurisdictions where that carnival very well may have been to see if they have missing persons", Newman said.

Asked if Wright is a serial killer, Newman said: "I think you can say that, yes".

Washington County Commonwealth Attorney Joshua Cumbow said the death penalty is "on the table". Wright is being held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon. It is unclear whether he has an attorney.

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