A travelling carnival worker allegedly killed three females, including a teenager, according to police

Washington County Police Department
  • 23-year-old James Michael Wright, who authorities say worked as a subcontractor for a travelling carnival, has been charged with three counts of capital murder for killing 22-year-old Elizabeth Vanmeter, 17-year-old Joslyn Alsup, and 25-year-old Athina Hopson.
  • Wright confessed to the shootings, but said they were accidental.
  • He is currently being held without bond at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Virginia.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

A 23-year-old Virginia man who police say worked for a travelling carnival has been charged in the slaying of two women and a teenage girl, authorities said at a Monday press conference.

James Michael Wright has been charged with three counts of capital murder related to the killings of 22-year-old Elizabeth Vanmeter of Tennessee, 17-year-old Joslyn Alsup of Georgia, and 25-year-old Athina Hopson of Tennessee, said Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman at the press conference. Wright confessed to murdering the three women, but claimed the shootings were accidental.

“We find that hard to believe,” Newman said.

Newman told reporters that Wright was a subcontractor for the James H. Drew Exposition, a travelling carnival based in Georgia. He said that Alsup’s father was a co-worker at the carnival. While the James H. Drew Exposition told INSIDER they have no records of Wright working for them, Newman said Wright became acquainted with the women through his work at the carnival.

Deputy Sheriff Darrell Dickenson, public information officer at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed to INSIDER that the suspect told them he worked as a subcontractor at the carnival.

Wright allegedly shot and killed Elizabeth Vanmeter in late February, following an argument. Vanmeter was cognitively disabled with the mental capacity of a 13-year-old according to a report from WCYB. Court documents obtained by WJHL allege that Wright killed Joslyn Alsup in March after they had sex in the woods near his home.

Bonnie Griffith, Athina Hopson’s mother, told WJHL that her daughter first met Wright after taking a job cleaning his house. According to the court documents reviewed by WJHL, Wright told investigators he accidentally shot Hopson in March while they were on a walk. He said he tripped, fell, and shot her in the head. At the press conference, Newman said that Wright told them he was transporting her body in his truck, and that her body fell out – only to roll down a river embankment near a bridge. He then placed her body in the river.

“Why? What was going through this man’s head,” Griffith told the station. “Why would he do this to these girls that are innocent and probably trusted him?”

Newman said that Hopson’s cell phone was found in Wright’s truck, and that they later found the remnants of bodies believed to be Vanmeter and Alsup on Wright’s property.

He is currently being held without bond at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Virginia.

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