2 bodies found after Southwest Virginia man admits to killing 3 people

Sheriff describes him as a 'serial killer'

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. – Two bodies have been found and crews continue the search for a third after a southwest Virginia man admitted to killing two women and a teenage girl, according to WCYB

James Michael Wright, 23, reportedly admitted to authorities that he killed three people. Wright was allegedly a traveling carnival worker. 

Wright is facing three counts of capital murder, according to Washington County Commonwealth's Attorney Josh Cumbow.


Authorities told WCYB that Wright admitted to killing Athena Hopson, Elizabeth Vanmeter and Joslyn Aslup in a span of 18 days. Crews are still searching for Hopson's body, and authorities have found Vanmeter and Aslup's bodies. 

Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman described Wright as a serial killer, according to WCYB. Newman told the NBC affiliate that investigators will be reaching out to all of the areas where the carnival Wright reportedly worked for traveled to in efforts to find any missing person cases that could be linked to the case as potential victims. 

Authorities tell WCYB that the first murder happened on February 28 near Wright's Mendota home. Wright told investigators that he shot Vanmeter, 21, during an altercation. She was reported missing out of Carter County, Tennessee. Authorities say her body was found in a shallow grave and had been reported missing in March. 

A report from the Carter County Sheriff's Office shows that a caretaker for Vanmeter said she was cognitively disabled and had the mental capacity of a 13-year-old. The caretaker reportedly told authorities that Vanmeter left with Wright in the first week of February. 

Wright reportedly met the second victim, Alsup, 17, of Cobb County, Georgia while working for the traveling carnival. According to WCYB, he claimed that the two had sex and then he shot her on March 9 and covered her body with logs in nearby woods close to his home. Wright claims he was trying to shoot an animal when he shot her. 

The third victim, Hopson, 25, was reported missing by Johnson City Police on March 27, according to WCYB. A warrant said that Hopson was killed on March 17. Wright told officers that he tripped twice and shot Hopson in the head. 

Wright told authorities that he then loaded Hopson into his truck bed and was taking her to a hospital when her body fell out of the truck. He told officers that he got scared and dumped her body in the Holston River. 

Newman told the NBC affiliate that one of the major breaks in the case came when a cellphone, belonging to Hopson, was found inside Wright's truck when it was impounded after a March 19 crash. Newman said crews will continue to search the Holston River to find Hopson's body. 

Newman told the NBC affiliate that the victims were only tentatively identified and an autopsy was being conducted to verify their identities. 

Wright is being held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon.