Second person wanted for questioning in Columbus County triple homicide

Second person wanted for questioning in Columbus County triple homicide
Jonathan Watts (Source: CCSO)

COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - A second person is wanted for questioning in connection with the targeted killing of three family members in Columbus County last weekend.

According to a news release from the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office, Jonathan Walter Watts, 37, of Whiteville, is a person of interest in the fatal shootings and he is known to drive a Ford F-250 standard cab truck with a black flatbed and a Wyoming license plate.

Marquez Montrell Cherry, 23, of Whiteville, is also wanted for questioning and has outstanding warrants on unrelated charges.

Marquez Montrell Cherry
Marquez Montrell Cherry (Source: Columbus County Sheriff's Office)

Sheriff Jody Greene says first responders were called to a home on Brittany Lane outside of Whiteville just before 7 a.m. Saturday.

When they arrived, they found four people with gunshot wounds. Despite crew’s efforts to save the victims, Leonel Ciprian Noyola, his wife, Nancy Trujillo Espinoza, and his 5-year-old son, Alexis Trujillo, died.

The child’s grandmother, Rafaela Noyola Jaramillo, was taken to Columbus Regional Healthcare and is expected to survive.

The sheriff’s office later said that the shootings were a targeted attack and not a random act of violence.

The suspects reportedly stole the family’s 2011 silver Ford Fusion which was later located on Twin Pines Road.

Two men matching the suspects’ descriptions also stole a 2009 Chevrolet Silverado truck from a home outside of Whiteville on Sunday. The truck was found on fire off Morgan Road near Hwy 701 in Loris, S.C. around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, according to a Horry County Police Department report. Police responded to the scene after a passerby saw the truck burning on the side of the road, not far from the state line.

“(The caller) stated that she also noticed a U-Haul truck pulled up nose to nose with the vehicle that was on fire,” the report states. “(The caller) stated she also believes she saw the same U-Haul truck at the Speed Way in Loris parked next to her while she was at pump #3. (She) stated she thought the situation was odd and called the police.”

If you have any information on Watts or Cherry’s whereabouts, contact the sheriff’s office’s criminal investigations division at 910-640-6629 or call 911.

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