At least 37 homicides recorded in NC’s Border Belt in first six months of 2024

By Rachel Baldauf 

At least 37 people, including four children, have died in homicides in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties so far this year, according to an analysis by the Border Belt Independent.

Robeson County has seen at least 25 homicides since Jan. 1. Scotland County has reported at least 8 homicides this year, and Columbus and Bladen counties have both reported at least 2.

The Border Belt Independent began tracking homicides in January with the aim of identifying trends in the region where violent crime rates typically exceed statewide figures. The tracker is updated weekly based on news releases, detention center custody reports and social media posts from law enforcement.

Since the Border Belt Independent only started tracking in 2024, it’s not easy to compare the number of reported homicides to the same six-month period in previous years. 

By this time last year, 28 people had been charged with first- or second-degree murder in cases investigated by the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, an analysis by the Border Belt Independent showed. By the end of the year, at least 66 people had been charged.

Robeson County is home to about 117,000 people, making it more than twice the size of Columbus County and three times the size of Bladen and Scotland counties. 

In 2022, Robeson and Scotland counties had the two highest violent crime rates in the state per capita, according to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation

Four victims were children

Both homicides in Columbus County this year have involved children. Seven-year-old Antonio Jamal Maultsby Jr. was killed in March after someone fired shots into a Chadbourn mobile home. No arrests have been made in the case. 

“Whoever did this I hope y’all get them. God knows I hope y’all get them,” Maultsby’s grandmother Martha David told WECT in March. “I don’t know what caused this, none of it. I don’t know why someone would want to do this, but they did do it and I don’t know why.”

Less than a week later, investigators said 17-year-old Kaley Michelle Fowler was shot and killed by her father in their home north of Cerro Gordo. Jeffrey Dale Fowler, 53, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Two children were also killed in Robeson County. Kaden Strickland, 17, was shot and killed in Rowland in early March. An unidentified 17-year old was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. In May, a 17-year-old was killed in a gun safety accident in Pembroke. Marshall D. Hunt, 27, was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Early last month, a pregnant woman and her unborn child were killed in Riegelwood in Columbus County. Bolivia Monique, 33, was 25 weeks pregnant when she was shot and killed by Najee Devon Leach, 31, investigators said.