Eight months after McKenzie Sessoms was found dead in her home near Salemburg, the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office has made an arrest in the death of the 11-year-old girl.
Sheriff Jimmy Thornton announced at a news conference Wednesday morning that a juvenile has been charged with murder and first-degree rape in the case. To be considered a juvenile, the suspect has to be under the age of 16. Thornton said no other details about the juvenile would be released. Thornton would not say if the suspect and Sessoms knew each other at all.
Howard Jones who lives just a short distance in front of the Sessoms home said his grandson, 14-year-old Trey Jones, has been arrested in the case. Jones said his grandson lived with him at the time of the murder.
Other neighbors who are family relatives of Sessoms said their family has known the Jones family for many years.
“I don’t know what made him do it, but I hope that he’s realized that he’s really messed up his life as well as taking McKenzie away from us,” commented Sessoms’ grandmother Cathy Starke at the news conference.
Sessoms was found dead on Sept. 6, 2013 at her home on Hairr Lane outside Salemburg. Since then, detectives have questioned a potential suspect pool of more than a dozen people. Thornton said detectives conducted numerous interviews and collected and processed evidence including DNA.
“The investigation really is still ongoing. Now it’s time to start putting the pieces together to prepare for court or a trial,” said detective Capt. Julian Carr.
Carr said the district attorney would determine what degree of murder the suspect would face. He also said adult charges may be possible.
“That’s going to depend on the court system, but more than likely it’ll be bound over to criminal court,” Carr said.
Starke said Sessoms was a 5th grade student at Salemburg Elementary School. She said the past eight months have been a challenging time for her family as they waited for someone to be charged in the case.
“There’s no way I can tell you how it felt yesterday to find out they finally found somebody and got him,” Starke said.
Starke said her granddaughter may have become a nurse or a teacher and that she had her whole life ahead of her to make those plans. Tears formed in her eyes as she talked about the things the child enjoyed.
“She loved riding horses, riding four-wheelers, just hanging out with her friends, putting on makeup,” Starke said. “She was an 11-year-old child.”
Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.More>>