The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 11, 2013

State Appeals Court denies convicted killer new trial

VAN HOLLAND
Correspondent

TARBORO — The North Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed convicted killer Antwan Maurice Pittman's request for a new trial on Aug. 27. The decision on his appeal came almost two years after he was found guilty of killing 28-year-old Tahara Shenice Nicholson.

The Appeals Court granted the state's motion to dismiss the appeal after Pittman cited 70 questioned trial error issues in connection with the conviction when he filed the appeal July 2012.

The state's motion was granted on the basis that there was a lack of substantial constitutional questions about how the lower court ruled in the trial.

Pittman was found guilty Sept. 29, 2011 of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison after it took jurors less than an hour to find him guilty. He is serving his time at Central Prison in Raleigh.

Pittman testified during the trial that he had sex with Nicholson on Feb. 21, but denied killing her. An SBI agent testified that Pittman's semen was found inside Nicholson's body. The same agent also testified that semen from another male was also found in Nicholson's body, but couldn't determine to whom it belonged.

In the appeal, Pittman's attorney, Anne Bleyman, argued that Pittman's semen wasn't relevant to Nicholson's murder. She also questioned multiple DNA samples found on the shirt and panties of Nicholson, with none matching Pittman.

Other questions raised in the appeal included the testimony of two female prosecution witnesses who testified that Pittman attacked them in a wooded area after he agreed to pay them for sexual acts. The appeal questioned the character and competence of both witnesses.

After Pittman was convicted, he said "I did not kill that woman. Y'all are sending an innocent man to prison for life. I did not kill that woman."

The case became high profile when Pittman became the prime suspect in Nicholson's case and was the main person of interest in connection with the slayings of eight other women whose bodies were found within a 10-mile radius of the area over a four-year period from 2005-2009. There's a 10th woman who is still missing. Pittman hasn't been charged in connection with any of those deaths.

All of the women in those cases shared the same patterns and physical appearances. They were known to frequent places where drug activity took place as well as prostitution.

Pittman also served a year and three months for an indecent liberties with a child conviction in 1994