Carny confessed to killing women he met on the job: Cops

James Michael Wright             
    Washington County Sheriff

James Michael Wright Washington County Sheriff

A Virginia man is accused of murdering three women he met while traveling with a carnival and authorities say there could be more victims.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office in Virginia announced that arrest of a 23-year-old carnival worker from Virginia who they say confessed that he fatally shot three women over the course of 18 days - accidentally.

Wright told police that the killings were all accidental, but authorities were skeptical, Newman said.

Johnson City, Tennessee, authorities investigating Hopson's case found she had last been seen with Wright, which led to a search warrant of his truck. Wright admitted to shooting Hopson and told investigators he was driving with her corpse in the bed of his truck when the body fell out, rolling down an embankment near Nordyke Road in Mendota, Virginia, according to the release. The remains of two bodies, believed to be Vanmeter and Alsup, were recovered. Deputies uncovered a cell phone belonging to Hopson, and in a subsequent interview with detectives from Tennessee, Wright allegedly confessed to killing Hopson. Newman told the NBC affiliate that investigators will be reaching out to all of the areas where the carnival Wright reportedly worked for traveled to in efforts to find any missing person cases that could be linked to the case as potential victims. Vanmeter was reported missing to authorities on March 17.

Two bodies were recovered near Wright's home, one from a shallow grave and another near some logs, police said.

According to Wright's alleged confession, he killed Vanmeter on February 28 after getting into an argument, then buried her outside near his home, Newman said. The.22 caliber rifle Wright allegedly used was found on his grandfather's property.

Wright allegedly told police that he came to know the woman through his job as a sub-contract worker for the James H. Drew Carnival, and Alsup was the daughter of one of Wright's coworkers. She was killed on or about February 28, and Wright said her death was the result of an argument, according to the sheriff's office.

On the evening of that killing, Wright posted a meme on Facebook from another account that appears to be his. Hopson's mother reported her missing four days later.

"Yes, this one individual lived in the community, but it was, in my opinion, an isolated incident", said Newman. According to WBIR, Vanmeter's caretaker claimed she was cognitively disabled and had the mental capacity of a 13-year-old.

In an interview with WJHL, Griffith questioned how he could shoot someone twice on accident. "Why would he do this to these girls that are innocent?" He said he placed the woman's body in the North Fork Holston River, according to Newman. Hopson's cellphone was found inside, police said.

Authroties would not discuss a motive for the killings.

During the press conference, Newman was asked whether he classified Wright as a serial killer.

"We're working with the carnival to make a determination of the location that they set up the carnivals and attempt to see if there are people reported missing from those jurisdictions", said Newman.

Wright is being held without bond at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail as a joint investigation and recovery effort continues.

Washington County Commonwealth Attorney Joshua Cumbow said it is possible his office will seek the death penalty. It is unclear whether he has an attorney.

This article was written by Meagan Flynn, a reporter for The Washington Post.

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