SE­RIAL KILLER IN CAROLINAS?

In­ter­state 95 a trail of tears – and bod­ies

24 Hours Vancouver - - NEWS - BRAD HUNTER

Ev­ery town has its se­crets. Some ter­ri­fy­ing.

Some un­speak­able.

In the clas­sic David

Lynch crime thriller Blue Vel­vet, be­hind the fa­cade of ho­mo­ge­neous small-town tran­quil­lity lurked mon­sters, heartache and pain.

Go to Po­dunkville any­where and even­tu­ally you’ll get the 411 on dirty se­crets and bad peo­ple.

Blue Vel­vet took place in Lum­ber­ton, N.C.

Pop­u­la­tion: 21,499.

Dur­ing the past six months, real life has be­gun im­i­tat­ing art, with three young women dead and two more van­ished off the face of the earth.

Sev­er­ing Lum­ber­ton — about 100 km over the state line from Myr­tle Beach — is I-95, the main In­ter­state artery on the U.S. east­ern seaboard.

It runs from the Cana­dian bor­der to Mi­ami.

For years, the FBI be­havioural sci­ence unit has be­lieved cold-blooded killers in the guise of truck­ers have been ply­ing their vile trade on the na­tion’s in­ter­state high­way sys­tem.

Did some­one pass­ing through kill, move on, come back and kill again?

Right now, cops are poopoo­ing the no­tion the har­vest of death had been the hand­i­work of a se­rial killer.

Ex­cept ... three of the bod­ies were found less than 650 feet apart at dif­fer­ent times. Now, there’s a curve­ball. Abby Pat­ter­son, 20, dis­ap­peared Sept. 5.

She was last seen in the mid­dle of the day.

The three dead women were drug-ad­dicted pros­ti­tutes.

Pat­ter­son was not, al­though she had just emerged from a stint in re­hab.

This is not to say her life is more valu­able than a sex worker, but it seems to be a point lo­cal de­tec­tives are hold­ing onto to dis­pel the no­tion a se­rial killer is in their midst.

Pat­ter­son told her mom she would be back in an hour.

She was last seen get­ting into a late-model rusty­brown Buick.

Poof. Gone.

“Those hours turned into months,” her mother, Sa­man­tha Lovette, wrote on Facebook. “It’s not get­ting any eas­ier and tears still fall ev­ery day.”

Cyn­thia Ja­cobs, 41, also dis­ap­peared within sev­eral hun­dred feet of Pat­ter­son.

She was also the last per­son to see Megan Ox­en­dine alive be­fore her body was found, naked, bloody and bat­tered.

In 2009, two other pros­ti­tutes were mur­dered. Their cases? Ice cold.

“It could be co­in­ci­den­tal or it could be that some­one out there is tar­get­ing pros­ti­tutes,” then-po­lice chief Robert Grice told lo­cal me­dia.

Could be.

And cops are keep­ing mum on the where­fores and hows of these tragic in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Be­cause the bod­ies were badly de­com­posed, the task for cops and the FBI is tougher.

Christina Bennett, 32, and Rhonda Jones, 36, were found mur­dered on the same day last April.

Ox­en­dine — a close friend of Jones — was mur­dered in June.

She called her friend

“sweet and kind.”

“I don’t com­pre­hend with stuff like this too good,” Ox­en­dine, a mother of five, told CBS News. “I don’t un­der­stand how some­body could do some­body’s child, mother, niece, like that.”

And in the tiny town of Lum­ber­ton — where Laura Dern once ex­cit­edly said

“The robins are back” af­ter a vil­lain­ous Den­nis Hop­per is capped — there is fear.

More likely than not, there are se­crets.

And as Bobby Vin­ton crooned in his 1963 maudlin mega-hit: “I still can see Blue Vel­vet through my tears.”

RHONDA JONES

ABBY PAT­TER­SON

CYN­THIA JA­COBS

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