Fourth woman disappears from Lumberton where 3 others found dead
LUMBERTON, N.C. - The FBI is assisting in the investigations of three women whose remains were found within the last year in the same North Carolina town where a fourth woman is now missing.
Abby Patterson, 20, told her mother she'd return in an hour when she left the family's Lumberton, N.C., home on the morning of Sept. 5 and stepped into an old brown Buick parked outside.
Authorities are searching for the young woman -- who has not been seen or heard from since -- as they also probe the deaths of three other women whose bodies were found weeks apart from each other in a three-block area of Lumberton.
"At this point we don't know if there's a connection," Lumberton Police Chief Michael McNeill said of the women.
"We're soliciting help from the community," McNeill told Fox News. "Someone out there has information we need."
Investigators discovered the body of Christina Bennett, 32, on April 18 inside an abandoned home in Lumberton -- a city of close to 22,000 people in Robeson County in southern North Carolina's Inner Banks region. That same day, the remains of Rhonda Jones were found in a nearby trash container.
Neighborhood resident 28-year-old Megan Oxendine was interviewed by a local news station at the time Jones' body was discovered. Weeks later, on June 3, Oxendine's remains were found about 500 feet away from the other women's remains.
There were no obvious signs of trauma to the victims and police are still waiting for official autopsy reports from the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh, McNeill said.
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed to Fox News on Thursday that the bureau is assisting local police with the investigations.
In the case of Patterson, police said they have identified the man last seen with the young woman, who was living in Florida and visiting her mother in Lumberton for two days when she disappeared.
"We're still talking to him," Lumberton Police Department Captain Terry Parker said to Fox News.
"We think it's someone she knew, but we're not sure," said Parker, who did not name the man or say whether he's considered a person of interest in the case.
"Abby is still listed as a missing person. We've had reported sightings of her but none of them have been confirmed," he said.
The woman's mother, meanwhile, told Fox News it was unlike her daughter to voluntarily cut all contact with her family.
"We talk or text every day," said Samantha Lovette, Patterson's mother. "When she didn't come home after an hour, I called her cell phone and it went straight to voicemail."
"We just want her home," said Lovette, who described her daughter, the youngest of her three children, as "bubbly and free spirited."
"Everybody she meets she just loves and they love her," said Lovette.
A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the location of Patterson. Anyone with information on her whereabouts or on the deaths of Bennett, Jones and Oxendine is urged to call the Lumberton Police Department at (910) 671-3845.