LUMBERTON, N.C. (WBTW) — An advocacy group for missing and murdered people of Robeson County conducted a celebration of life event for three women found dead five years again in east Lumberton.
The group Shatter the Silence remembered Rhonda Jones, Christina Bennett and Megan Oxendine while also focusing on other cold cases during Saturday afternoon’s event at Luther Britt Park.
“If people knew how high the numbers were, they would know our purpose in being here today,” Shelia Price, the group’s founder said.
Jones was Price’s daughter. Her death inspired Price to start the group.
“The families are crying out wanting justice, and we feel like no one’s listening,” she said.
Shatter the Silence has cataloged more than 200 cold cases in the region. Family members of several victims attended the event.
“It took me losing my child to realize how all these other people out here today are feeling,” Price said. “And it hurts.”
Stephanie Blackadar, a relative of high school football standout Marqueise Coleman, who was murdered in St Pauls last summer, was one of the guest speakers. She pleaded for answers in his still-unsolved case.
“The violence in this county needs to be challenged,” Blackadar said. “There are too many unsolved deaths, too many hurt families, too many literal murderers walking free in this county.”
Other guest speakers included community activists, political candidates and board members of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of North Carolina Coalition.
One board member, Jane Eagle Heart Jacobs, said her own sister was murdered in Pembroke in 2018. She said high rates of missing and murdered people stretch far beyond Robeson County, plaguing predominantly Native American communities across the state and country.
“In 2016, there were more than 5,716 missing and murdered indigenous women, and that number just keeps growing,” Jacobs said.
She partly blames the issue on the lack of resources available to many indigenous people.
“There are more Natives in North Carolina than anywhere on the eastern seaboard,” she said. “We are here, we are not going anywhere, and we are just asking for the same level of care for our families and loved ones as it would be for anyone else.”
She delivered an impassioned speech that drove Price to tears.
“Rhonda, can I talk to you about your mama, who has woken up North Carolina to the problem that’s in Robeson County,” she told those at the event. “This woman that is standing next to me has more heart and more fight than anyone I’ve ever seen.”