LUMBERTON, N.C. (WBTW) — This week marks five years since the mysterious deaths of three women in Lumberton. One of the victims’ mothers hopes to find answers in the unsolved case and more than 200 other cold cases.
Shelia Price has compiled a notebook with pictures and notes on more than 200 missing and murdered people throughout the region, with cases spanning decades.
“Every picture in this notebook, I know their mothers are crying out like me, wanting justice,” Price said.
The notebook includes information on her own daughter, Rhonda Jones, whose body was found naked in a dumpster. The bodies of Christina Bennett and Megan Oxendine were found in the same East Lumberton neighborhood around the same time.
“My daughter didn’t deserve to be thrown in a trash can,” Price said. “I promise, whoever did that will pay for touching that, because that was mine. You had no right to put your hands on her. That’s where you messed up — when you killed that one, I started fighting for those three, then. All of them.”
After her daughter’s death, Price started networking. She found others with similar experiences — a dead relative and no answers. She started the organization “Shatter the Silence” as a support group for those with missing or murdered loved ones, but it eventually became much more.
“I thought it was just going to be a group where we could talk to each other, comfort each other,” Price said. “Then it started growing and people said we needed to start marching. I said, ‘Well, we can do that.'”
Shatter the Silence now has nearly 10,000 members on Facebook. The group regularly attends high-visibility events in Robeson County, like the Lumbee Homecoming and Lumberton Christmas Parade. Members decorate their cars with images of the loved ones they lost and carry a massive banner featuring their faces.
“Because people see us, people hear our voices,” Price said.
She said as the work continues, she has started to see more people take notice. Stories of victims associated with the group have been picked up by TV stations, newspapers and podcasts from around the Carolinas and beyond.
“Shatter the Silence is helping and we are being heard.” Price said. “It took us five years and we are still getting started, because the group keeps growing, and we are fighting.”
In spite of the progress, the vast majority of the cases remain unsolved. Price said the rare ones that eventually get solved can often take years to play out in court and result in lighter sentences than the victims’ families would prefer. She wants to see systemic change to address that.
“Something needs to be done. We need stricter laws and stricter punishment,” Price said. “Mainly stricter punishment, because in this county, people know you can just kill somebody, go to court, pull a couple years and be back out.”
She said until all the cases in her notebook are solved, Shatter the Silence isn’t going anywhere.
“I’m tired of crying,” Price said. “That’s why I do what I do, because I’m tired. I shouldn’t have had to play detective for five years. No one is paying me to keep all these records or answer the phone at 2 a.m. because a mother wants me to listen and talk about their child. But I do it because I know how they feel.”
Shatter the Silence will host a celebration of life for Jones, Bennett and Oxendine on Saturday at Luther Britt Park in Lumberton. It begins at 1 p.m. and will feature presentations from activists, advocates and families of victims.