Local/State

Testimony starts in suspected serial killer's trial

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A jury began hearing testimony in the trial of a suspected serial killer Tuesday.

The jury was seated Monday in the trial of Antwan Pittman.

He's charged with killing one woman in 2009 in Edgecombe County, but authorities have linked him to at least seven other murders.

Pittman's trial was moved out of Edgecombe County to Bertie County due to publicity before the trial.

With his fate now in the hands of 12 jurors, both sides tried to make their case during opening arguments.

"As far as the state of North Carolina is concerned ya'll are the most integral part of this case," Edgecombe County ADA Steve Graham told the jury. "Regardless of what you hear, do not take your reason and common sense at any time and simply throw them away."

However, defense attorneys told the jury what they won't hear - eyewitness testimony linking Pittman to the strangulation death of Tahara Nicholson - a one of eight Edgecombe County women who mysteriously disappeared and were later found dead. Another woman is still missing.

The mothers of the other victims have said a guilty verdict would give them closure.

"I'm hoping for that in some ways get peace from this process," said Jurray Tucker, the mother of Yolanda Lancaster, who was found dead.

Pittman, who is only charged in Nicholson's death, is expected to take the stand in his own defense - telling the jury she was a prostitute he had hired for sex.

"When Mr. Pittman picked up this lady ... that they went to area ... he'll tell you that he dropped her off and that is the last time he saw this young lady," defense attorney Tom Sallinger said.

Defense attorneys also downplayed the state's DNA evidence linking Pittman to Nicholson's body.

"Yes, they did find semen on that body ... see how many people they found ... contributors," Sallinger said.

Along with DNA experts, the jury will also hear from several investigators.

On Tuesday, one of the first officers on the scene showed photos of the wooded area where Nicholson's body was found by a group of hunters. But the defense questioned exactly how she got there and whether the scene was preserved.

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Tags:
antwan pittman, wayne county, edgecombe county, local/state
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