LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) – Crime scene cleaners could be seen going in and out of a home in Lumberton where one woman’s decomposing body was found April 18, and just feet away, another woman’s body was found in a trash can.
Lumberton police identified the women as 32-year-old Christina Bennett and 36-year-old Rhonda Jones.
Even after the bodies were discovered and crime scene cleaners worked for hours to clear the home off of East 5th Street, the owner of the property says the abandoned home is not a problem property and he may spruce it up and rent it out.
“It’s a shock to us,” admits property owner Woodberry Bowen. “I don’t know many landlords who have ever had a dead body in their place. I had to research what I had to do. I found out that the first thing we have to do is properly and legally dispose of bio-waste, anything that came in contact with decaying blood or flesh involved.”
The Fagala Biohazard Specialists crew out of Charlotte, NC had to cut out the floors of the home near East 5th Street and treat items that are hazards to people in the surrounding area. The owner of the company, Mark Fagala, says after 28 years in business, clearing crime scenes never gets easier.
“You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t weigh on you a little,” describes Fagala.
Those who live in the neighborhood say they’ve reported the home to city council as a target for drugs.
Days after Dallice Butler moved out of a hotel he had been living in for months because Hurricane Matthew destroyed his home, he thought he was starting over.
“It’s hurting a lot of people,” Butler says of the crime. “People think we don’t worry about stuff like this. This is really affecting Lumberton.”
Butler says he complained about the odor near his new home, while watching police find one woman, Butler actually discovered the second body in a trash can.
“Everyone wants closure in this,” says Butler. “We need to know exactly what happened. Everybody is scared now. We don’t know who did this. What the cause was. Especially the family. The family really needs to know. If we as neighbors are worried, I can only imagine how the family feels.”
Butler says he is happy the owner is cleaning the area, but he won’t feel safe until a suspect is caught. Until then, he installed a steel door at his new house.
“If someone tries to kick it in, they won’t hurt anyone but themselves,” says Butler. “It’s a steel door with a steel frame in it now. We don’t know. There are no answers as to who [did this]. That’s what we need to know. And why [they did this]?”
Lumberton City Councilman John Cantey says he is working to pinpoint abandoned homes or problem areas. He admits neighbors have told him the area is drug ridden, but before Cantey could take action, the two bodies were found.
While the property owner says he is exploring options to get the home in line with city codes so it can be rented.
“We’ll explore with the city what our options are. We believe the building is structurally sound and could be refurbished. We will also look into the economics of that. It may not be that it is worth wild for us to,” explained Bowen.
Lumberton police say they have no suspects in what they are considering the case as a “suspicious deaths” until the investigation is complete.
Anyone with information related to the deaths of Bennett and Jones is asked to call the Lumberton Police Department at 910-671-3845.