A Marietta teen reported missing in March was the victim of a Virginia carnival worker serial killer, according to Washington County, Virginia, Sheriff Fred Newman.
James Michael Wright, 23, a traveling carnival worker from Mendota, Virginia, confessed to shooting and killing 17-year-old Jocelyn Alsup and two other women over the course of 18 days in February and March, Newman said. Wright claims all of the shootings were accidental, Sheriff Newman said, a claim he called “hard to believe.” Newman also said it would be appropriate to refer to Wright as a “serial killer.”
Alsup was reported missing out of Marietta on March 8 and is believed to have been killed on or about March 9, Newman said at a press conference streamed by Washington County TV station WCYB.
The other alleged victims are Athina Hopson, 25, of Johnson City, Tennessee, and Elizabeth Vanmeter, 22, of Carter County, Tennessee, Newman said. All three are believed to have been killed in Washington County, Virginia, according to Newman.
Investigators believe Wright found his victims through his work with a vendor that worked with a traveling carnival company.
“Through his employment as a subcontract worker for the James H. Drew Carnival, Wright became acquainted with the women,” Newman said. “The 17-year-old female was the daughter of one of Wright’s co-workers who worked at the carnival. The investigation is ongoing regarding the suspect’s activities at the carnival because we know, again, that carnival travels extensively, certainly throughout the East Coast. We have plans to contact any jurisdictions where that carnival may have been.”
James H. Drew operates the carnival at the North Georgia State Fair in Cobb County annually in September.
The bodies of Alsup and Vanmeter have been found, but investigators are still searching for Hopson’s remains. Newman said police have recovered the weapon they believe Wright used in the murders.
Wright is being held at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail without bond, jail records show.
Washington County Commonwealth Attorney Joshua Cumbow said he could not rule out capital punishment.
“Certainly this is very early in a case like this, but the death penalty is definitely on the table,” he said.