WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. – A traveling carnival worker confessed Monday to killing two women and a teen girl earlier this year, but claimed the deaths were accidental, according to court documents.
James Michael Wright, 23, of Virginia, admitted to fatally shooting the three women between February 28 and March 17, Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman said during a news conference. Newman said Wright's claim that the deaths were accidental is "hard to believe based on the information we have."
Media Conference on Mendota Incident.Posted by Washington County Virginia Sheriff's Office on Monday, May 13, 2019
The victims were identified as Joslyn Alsup, 17, who was the daughter of one of Wright's coworkers at the carnival; Marie Vanmeter, 22; and Athina Hopson, 25. Investigators said Wright met all three victims through his job.
According to court documents obtained by WJHL, Wright confessed to shooting and killing Vanmeter after they had a fight on February 28. He told authorities he buried her body near his home. Vanmeter was reported missing on March 17.
Wright confessed to fatally shooting Alsup after they had sexual intercourse in the woods near his home on March 9, the documents said. Wright told investigators he was trying to shoot an animal when he shot her instead. Alsup was reported missing on March 8.
Wright confessed to shooting and killing Hopson while they were on a walk on March 17, according to the documents. He claimed he accidentally shot her when he tripped and fell. Wright told investigators he then put the woman's body in the back of his truck to take her to the hospital, but it fell out en route and rolled down an embankment into a river. Hopson was reported missing on March 21.
The bodies of Vanmeter and Alsup were discovered during a search near Wright's residence, according to Newman. Vanmeter's body was reportedly found in a shallow grave, and Alsup's body was found near a creek.
Law enforcement is continuing to search for Hopson's body.
Wright is charged with three counts of capital murder, three counts of using a firearm in committing a murder and three counts of concealment of a dead body. He is being held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail.
When asked by reporters if Wright is a serial killer, Newman said, "I think you can say that, yes.”
Authroties would not discuss a motive for the killings.
Wright told investigators that he worked for Georgia-based carnival company James H. Drew Exposition, which operates along the East Coast. Newman said authorities are working with the company to determine where the carnival stopped, and if there are people reported missing in those areas that could be connected to Wright.