WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ/Gray News) - A Washington County man has been charged with three counts of capital murder in relation to the deaths of two missing Tennessee women and a missing 17-year-old female from Georgia.
According to a release from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, investigators from the Johnson City (Tenn.) Police Department sought the help of Washington County deputies in investigating a missing-person case in which the subject, Athina Hopson, 25, of Johnson City, had last been seen in the company of James Michael Wright, 23, of Mendota.
Based on an interview, a search warrant was obtained for the Wright’s truck, which had sustained major damage as the result of a motor vehicle crash with a Washington County school bus March 19 on Nordyke Road in Washington County. A cell phone that was identified as Hopson’s was found in Wright’s truck, the release stated.
A subsequent search warrant for Wright’s home was executed May 9. At the same time, Wright was interviewed by Tennessee detectives on the missing person cases. During the interview, Wright confessed to killing three women, the release stated.
According to the report, Wright told investigators that he shot and killed Elizabeth Marie Vanmeter, 22, of Carter County, Tennessee, after an argument. Vanmeter was reported missing to authorities on March 17.
On or about March 9, Wright allegedly shot and killed Joslyn M. Alsup, 17, from Cobb County, Georgia. Alsup was reported missing on March 8, the release added.
Wright said he shot and killed Hopson on or about March 17, according to the report. The suspect stated he shot Hopson and was transporting the victim in the back of his truck when her body fell out of the truck and rolled down an embankment near the bridge on Norkyke Road. He then placed her body in the river. Hopson was reported missing on March 21.
On May 10, a search was conducted of the properties surrounding Wrights home. The remains of two bodies, believed to be Vanmeter and Alsup, were recovered. One body was recovered from a shallow grave site, and the other near some logs, the report stated.
Authorities continue to search for the body of Hopson, which Wright claimed to have thrown into the river. The suspect alleged all three shootings were accidental, the release stated.
Autopsies are being performed today, and positive identification of the bodies that have been found will be based on autopsy reports, the report added.
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.
A firearm has been recovered and is believed to have been used in all three homicides, the release stated.
The investigation is still ongoing. Wright is being held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at (276) 676-6000.