One year later, no arrests

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 3, 2007

It’s been a year since anyone saw &uot;Dot&uot; Hobbs and Nellie Bradley alive, a year since their last telephone call to a family member was made from David’s Market, a year since their bodies were found later that evening near a dirt road in Hertford County, N.C., north of Murfreesboro.

And it’s been a year in which no arrests have been made in the murders, few suspects have been considered for the crimes and only slivers of clues have been found.

For Linda Tuck, the youngest sister of the two victims, nightmares continue. But she’s determined to keep the case — if not the memories of her older sisters — in the forefront.

&uot;Dot called my house from David’s Market in Hunterdale at 3:35 p.m. (the day of the murders) and left a message on my answering machine,&uot; Tuck said. &uot;I never heard the message [because] the police have the tape.&uot;

She went on.

&uot;We don’t want the local people to forget about this and to think the case has been solved, since it has not.&uot;

The two sisters, the oldest of six children raised in Emporia, liked to take drives in the country.

On their last day, Aug. 4, 2006, they were seen in Boykins making a donation for Relay for Life at the Boykins Baptist Church. The sheriff in North Carolina said the person who accepted the donation was an acquaintance of the two women.

A short time after that, the women were murdered.

The case remains open and so questions go unanswered. The facts of the case, however, remain clear.

The bodies of Dorothy Hobbs, 74, and her 71-year-old sister Nellie Bradley were discovered at 7:38 p.m. on Aug. 4 along a farm path north of Murfreesboro off Vaughan’s Creek Road. Hobbs had lacerations to her neck and face while Bradley suffered wounds to her chest.

Both women were partially clothed when they were discovered.

Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan offered information about the positioning of the two bodies. He said one was located on the edge of the farm path after the path left a cotton field and entered a wooded area. The other body was discovered a short distance into the wooded area adjacent to the path.

According to Vaughan, the vehicle in which the two were traveling — a black 1996 Ford Crown Victoria — was found at approximately 11:30 p.m. the night of the murders behind an abandoned house near Boykins. A forensic investigation has been performed on that vehicle.

Three months after the bodies were found police in North Carolina announced they had discovered DNA found in the car, DNA that did not belong to either sister. It offered hope, but the hope was later dashed when no match could be found.

The sisters, who were known to travel together on a frequent basis in southside Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, were last seen alive at approximately 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 4 when they stopped at Boykins Baptist Church to make a donation to Relay for Life.

&uot;I thought that the local people should know that Dot and Nellie were in Franklin just two hours before they were murdered,&uot; Tuck said. &uot;Why they were there, we have no idea because normally they went from Emporia to Boykins, either via [Route] 58 or going through Roanoke Rapids where they liked to eat at Ralph’s Barbeque.&uot;

Dot and Nellie were the two oldest of six children. They each had two children and Nellie has three grandchildren. Dot was a retired nurse and Nellie worked at the old Home Telephone Company, but had to retire because of health reasons. She had a brace on her leg and was handicapped.

Since the time of the murders, the Hertford County Sheriff’s Department, aided by the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies, has been actively involved in the investigation. Bloodhounds, specifically trained to sniff out old clues, and their handlers have, on multiple occasions, visited the location where the bodies were found. One week after the murders, lawmen set-up traffic checking stations along NC 35, the Vaughan’s Creek Road and the Vaughan’s Mill Road in an effort to solicit information from motorists who use those routes on a routine basis.

&uot;This thing is eating at me,&uot; Vaughan said. &uot;In the past, when we’ve had a murder here in Hertford County, we’ve normally had someone behind bars within a month’s time frame. But not in this case. We’ve used every resource available to us. Tracked down every lead and talked to a countless number of individuals, but still no arrest. But I will promise you one thing, we will not rest, we will not quit until the person or persons responsible for this crime is arrested, prosecuted and jailed.&uot;