Tar Heel Tarnation: the North Carolina Mourning Murders

Posted: April 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

I believe this to be an authentically senseless chain of correspondences but in the jingle-jangle morning of that summer it made as much sense as anything else did. —– Joan Didion, The White Album

Kimberly Riggsbee

Do you ever wonder if your brain is seeing connections that don’t actually exist?

Durham County, North Carolina; at approximately 2pm on October 7th, 1993 a motorist came upon a grisly scene at the side of Redwood Road near Falls Lake:
a small blue pickup truck idling at the edge of the highway, its driver covered in blood.
Kimberly Walker Riggsbee, age twenty-two, had been shot in the head, hand and shoulder; her cellphone—a relatively pricey item in 1993—lay beside her on the passenger’s seat.

Riggsbee crime scene

Nothing appeared to have been stolen and no overt sexual assault had been attempted; the paltry clues present at the crime scene provided no hints as to the killer’s motive or identity.
Kimberly’s decision to pull to the side of the road was also inexplicable:
“She may have stopped to talk to somebody,” Durham County Deputy Tom Mellown later speculated on WRAL.
“It may have been somebody she knew that she flagged down.”
Although the investigation was briefly reopened in 2010 no new leads were forthcoming; Kimberly’s murder remains unsolved.

Riggsbee crime scene rear view

8pm, December 27th, 2007. Fourteen years later and approximately one hundred miles away thirty-seven year old Beverly Honeycutt departed her mother’s house en route to her home in Sampson County.
Three hours later, alarmed by his failure to reach her by phone,
a friend went to the Honeycutt residence at 214 Mathis Street and found Beverly crumpled on her back steps—she’d been shot in the face.
Law enforcement has never revealed the type of firearm used in either the Honeycutt or Riggsbee homicides,
and as is the case with Kimberly’s murder,
the motive for Beverly’s still-unsolved slaying and the identity of her killer remain a mystery.

Beverly Honeycutt

At first glance these crimes seem to have only superficial similarities; two women gunned down more than a decade apart in a hundred-mile swath of North Carolina.
But further investigation has revealed Kimberly and Beverly had one peculiar trait in common;
the soon-to-be murdered women—mothers of young children both—had endured the recent accidental death of their romantic partner.

Honeycutt crime scene

Three months before Kimberly’s death her husband Donnie Riggsbee had died in a motorcycle mishap at the age of twenty-six—the couple’s daughter, barely a year old at her mother’s murder, was now orphaned.
And Beverly Honeycutt was also in mourning when she was slain;
her long haul-trucker boyfriend had been killed in a traffic accident a mere three weeks before her death—a gold chain her fiancé been wearing during the crash was found near her body at the crime scene.
Beverly’s children were ages ten and two when she was slain.

Street view of the Honeycutt home

I keep telling myself this odd parallel is simply a coincidence; fatal automotive accidents are plentiful as are cold case murders—it’s a mathematical certainty
some homicide victims will be slain while in the process of grieving a loved one killed in a crash.
Yet even as my rational mind deems the situation happenstance
the part of my brain steeped in crime fiction persists in spinning elaborate scenarios linking the Riggsbee and Honeycutt cases to a single shooter.

Beverly Honeycutt

Maybe the assailant perused the obituaries, my irrational mind insists, hunting for vulnerable grief-stricken women to date—and when Kimberly and Beverly rejected his advances he shot them.
Or maybe the perpetrator came into contact with both women while working at the coroner’s office or in some other death-adjacent job, I muse;
after becoming smitten he began to stalk both women with fatal results.
Or what if—bucking the statistical trend—the killer was female? Perhaps an angel of death who lost her soulmate in a car crash shot the victims to spare them the barren existence she now endures.
These scenarios are preposterous but they bubble to my mind’s surface, always trying to tie the murders into a neat, Hollywood-friendly package.

Christmas decorations displayed in the Honeycutt side yard at the time of the crime

These repeated mental attempts to link the Riggsbee and Honeycutt slayings, I am aware,
are almost certainly a form of true-crime pareidolia—a phenomenon which causes the human brain to see patterns where no patterns exist, desperate to impose order on random images.
In grossly simplistic terms, the brain conjures nonexistent patterns because it wants the comfort of knowing what’s coming next; suspense is an excruciating sensation, as cold-case victims’ loved ones will attest.

Regardless of whether Kimberly and Beverly were slain by a single shooter or separate assailants hopefully this will be the year the Riggsbee and Honeycutt families obtain justice;
and as they wait for a break in the case(s) I will continue to scour the web for additional bereaved women gunned down in North Carolina.
Twice might be a coincidence but three times is a pattern—and if detectives need advice I have some novel ideas for investigation.

Bullet hole in the Riggsbee crime scene

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