By Sarah Nagem
Wendy Jones often had swollen eyes, as if she had been struck, according to her mother. Once, she suffered a broken jaw.
But the abuse her daughter suffered at home with her two young children went beyond the physical, Linda Jones said.
“She wasn’t allowed to go outside until he told her to,” Linda Jones said of her daughter’s boyfriend. “She had to be back at a certain time.”
When she paid bills, Wendy Jones had to show her boyfriend the receipts to prove how their money was spent, her mother said. “If she came up short, she got a whoopin’.”
The last time Linda Jones talked to her daughter was in June, after 20-year-old Wendy Jones had been missing for several days. During the call, Linda Jones said, Wendy told her she loved her and that she might not see her again.
Weeks later, on Aug. 24, investigators with the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office found Wendy Jones’ dismembered body in a wooded area in Maxton. Her boyfriend, 24-year-old Glenn Locklear III, was charged the next day with first-degree murder.
Robeson County, which has the highest violent-crime rate per 100,000 people in North Carolina, has grown accustomed in a way to senseless homicides. But the details of Wendy Jones’ death shocked even this hardened community.
“I would say this is the worst one I’ve seen,” said Major Damien McLean, a spokesman for the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office who has been investigating local murders for at least eight years.
Investigators say Wendy Jones’ death highlights the perils of domestic violence, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her death is also a reminder of the grim statistics on violence against Native American women.
Wendy Jones, who was part of the Lumbee tribe, was the second indigenous woman in three months who investigators say was killed in a domestic violence situation in Robeson County, where about 40% of residents are Native American.
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The body of 38-year-old Jessica Locklear was discovered behind a home on Cabinet Shop Road in Rowland in June. Cedrick Locklear, 36, was charged with first-degree murder in her death.
Investigators also made arrests recently in the 2021 deaths of two other Robeson County women, Jessica Lawrence and Cynthia Marie Lowery. They say both were domestic-violence cases.
Indigenous women are murdered at a rate that is 10 times higher than that of other ethnicities in the United States. They are 1.7 times more likely than Anglo-American women to experience violence, data shows.
“Looking back through history, it was OK to rape or murder or do whatever to indigenous women,” said Angela Baxley with Shatter the Silence, a popular Facebook group that aims to bring awareness to missing and murdered individuals in Robeson County. “I’m going to fight to the end, because it’s not right.”
Domestic violence cases
Linda Jones said she tried to help her daughter. But the young woman seemed stuck in her situation, trying to be a mom to her 2-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter, both of whom she shared with Locklear III.
When the abuse was especially bad, Linda Jones said, her daughter would bring the children to her house, or to the home of other relatives, to shield them from what was happening.
In 2019, Linda Jones accused Locklear III of assaulting her and her husband. One of the assault charges was dismissed, according to McLean, and one ended in a not-guilty ruling.
Her daughter was hesitant to press charges against her boyfriend, Linda Jones said. Locklear III does not have a criminal record, according to McLean.
McLean said the sheriff’s office takes every domestic violence report seriously. He encouraged survivors of domestic violence, and their family members and friends, to contact law enforcement as soon as abuse occurs.
Too often, he said, police aren’t aware of what’s happening until it’s too late. “We need to know about it when it happens,” he said.
Like many other communities, Robeson County struggles with domestic violence, said Juana Mangum, victim service coordinator for the sheriff’s office. When she started her work 14 years ago, Mangum said, Robeson’s domestic violence court saw 20 to 30 cases per week. Now, she said, there are 60 to 70.
“It is really getting worse,” she said. “And the drug problem contributes to it. It is just terrible.”
Robeson County officials say the opioid epidemic drives much of the crime in Robeson, including domestic violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a rise in domestic violence cases, Mangum said.
Domestic violence incidents increased by 8% in the United States following stay-at-home orders imposed in 2020 during the early months of the pandemic, according to the national Council on Criminal Justice.
In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office responded to more than 3,200 domestic violence calls, McLean said – an increase of 30% from 2015, McLean said.
This year, the numbers so far are more in line with pre-pandemic figures. Through early August, McLean said, the sheriff’s office had responded to about 1,775 domestic violence calls.
But in a Facebook post, Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins called the recent deaths of women “appalling.”
‘So much more to do’
Baxley, with the Facebook group, said she was relieved that investigators made an arrest in the death of Cynthia Marie Lowery, who was shot to death in Pembroke in June 2021.
Lowery’s children’s father, 37-year-old Michael Ray Locklear, was charged with second-degree murder more than a year later, on Aug. 17, 2022. The sheriff’s office said investigators used ballistic and autopsy reports to make the arrest.
Baxley said she got to know Lowery through local marches and events aimed at bringing awareness to unsolved crimes in Robeson. Lowery struggled with drug misuse, Baxley said, but that didn’t stop her from being involved.
“She had so much further to go and so much more to do,” Baxley said.
In April, 42-year-old Michael Brayboy was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jessica Lawrence.
Lawrence was last seen in late September 2021 at her home in St. Pauls, the sheriff’s office said. Her body was found weeks later in a wooded area of Rowland.
Linda Jones said she grew concerned – more concerned than usual – when her daughter went missing last month. She hadn’t been seen since Aug. 12, and the sheriff’s office launched an investigation nine days later.
Investigators say they found surveillance video footage that showed Wendy Jones walking in the Red Hill Road area near Maxton, where the woman lived in an apartment with Locklear III and their children, in July through mid-August.
Linda Jones said she also searched on her own, checking local ponds for signs of her daughter. When investigators made the discovery, Linda Jones said, they told her to stay away. She didn’t need to see what they saw.
But Linda Jones said she went to her daughter’s home, where a crime had obviously occurred. “You could actually smell the flesh in the apartment,” she said. “There was blood everywhere.”
Melissa Collins, who lives in Maxton and says she is involved in the nationwide Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women initiative, organized a prayer walk to honor Wendy Jones.
Collins said she used to see the young woman around the neighborhood – smiling if she was on her own. “It’s just a lot that I’m feeling here.”
McLean said the investigation into Wendy Jones’ death is ongoing, and he could not release information about a potential motive in the case.
Last week, a memorial to Jones remained on the side of Juanita Road, with candles, flowers, balloons, an American flag and a small, white teddy bear. There were also dreamcatchers, crafts that are common in Native American culture.
Mangum said several local resources are available for domestic violence survivors. The Southeastern Family Violence Center in Lumberton offers housing and advocacy services for men, women and children.
Longer-term housing options are also available, Mangum said, and survivors can be referred to Legal Aid of North Carolina for help to get a divorce from an abusive spouse.
“Community resources are really important,” she said, “(in) helping ladies get out of this situation.”
Follow Sarah Nagem on Twitter.