Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman said James Michael Wright, 23, could be considered a serial killer
A Virginia man is accused of murdering three women he met while traveling with a carnival and authorities say there could be more victims.
James Michael Wright, 23, has been charged with three counts of capital murder for the deaths of Elizabeth Vanmeter, Joycelyn M. Alsup and Athina Hopson, Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman said at a press conference Monday. Newman said Wright could be considered a serial killer.
Wright, who was arrested on Thursday, worked with James H. Drew Exposition, a carnival that travels around the South and East Coast. He is believed to have met the women while traveling with the carnival.
Vanmeter and Hopson were from northern Tennessee and Alsup was from Georgia. The murders took place over the course of three weeks.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
In an interview with authorities, Wright allegedly claimed he had killed the women accidentally, revealing that the first death occurred on Feb. 28 at his Washington County home. Wright told investigators he fatally shot 22-year-old Vanmeter during a fight. According to WBIR, Vanmeter’s caretaker claimed she was cognitively disabled and had the mental capacity of a 13-year-old.
The second victim, Alsup, 17, was killed on March 9.
Wright allegedly said he accidentally shot her while shooting at an animal in the woods. He hit her by mistake, according to an arrest warrant, WBIR reports.
Wright told investigators he met the 17-year-old through her father who also worked in the carnival. He claimed the pair had sex before Wright shot her and dumped her body in woods near his home.
The body of Wright’s third known victim, Hopson, has not yet been found. He allegedly told investigators he killed her on March 17 after tripping and accidentally shooting her in the head, according to the warrant. Wright said he put her body in the back of his truck but it fell out while he was driving. Wright then claimed he dumped her body in a local river, 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. Her cell phone was reportedly found in the vehicle.
Two bodies believed to belong to Vanmeter and Alsup have been found on Wright’s property. The .22 caliber rifle Wright allegedly used was found on his grandfather’s property.
Newman said investigators are now reaching out to authorities in the places where the traveling carnival visited to ask about any open missing-person cases in those areas.
Wright does not appear to have a criminal background.
“He wasn’t certainly on our radar of being in any type of criminal activity,” Newman said.
Wright remains behind bars in Virginia without bond. It is unclear whether he has an attorney.