Traveling carnival worker confesses to killing 2 women, teen in Virginia

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. (ABC) — A traveling carnival worker has allegedly confessed to killing two women and a teenager within an 18-day period in Virginia, according to authorities.

Mendota resident James Michael Wright, 23, worked as a sub-contractor for carnival company Drew Expositions, Washington County Sheriff, the Hon., Fred Newman, told reporters at a press conference on Monday.

About two weeks ago, investigators with the Johnson City Police Department in Tennessee contacted the Washington County Sheriff's Office to request assistance in setting up an interview with Wright, who they had identified as a suspect in the case for missing person Athina Hopson, 25, who was last seen in his company, Newman said.

While executing a search warrant on Wright's truck, authorities found Hopson's cell phone, Newman said. On Thursday, when Wright was being interviewed by detectives from Tennessee at the local sheriff's office, he allegedly confessed to killing Hopson and two other female victims, Newman said.

Wright allegedly told police that he shot and killed 22-year-old Carter County, Tennessee, resident Elizabeth Marie Vanmeter on Feb. 28 as a result of an argument, Newman said. She was reported missing by her family on March 17.

Joslyn M. Alsup, whose father worked with Wright at the carnival, was reported missing on March 8, and Wright allegedly admitted to shooting and killing her the next day, police said.

Wright allegedly shot and killed Hopson on March 17, Newman said. Wright allegedly told investigators that her body fell out of his truck and down an embankment near a bridge on Norkyke Rd. as he was driving and that he placed her body in the river, Newman said. Hopson was reported missing by her mother on March 21, authorities said.

Wright met each of his victims through the carnival, which travels up and down the East Coast, Newman said, adding that Alsup was the daughter of one Wright's coworkers.

On Friday, investigators conducted a search of the property surrounding Wright's home and found the remains of two people, Newman said. One body was found in a shallow grave, and the other was placed on or near some logs, Newman said. Investigators have "tentatively" identified the bodies as Alsup and Vanmeter based on Wright's alleged statement, Newman said. Autopsies are being conducted to determine an official identification for both bodies.

Authorities have still not located Hopson's body, Newman said.

Autopsies are being performed on the bodies that were recovered, and positive identification of the bodies that have been found will be based on autopsy reports.

All of the murders occurred in Washington County, Newman said, adding that Wright deemed them each as accidents. The firearm believed to have been used in all three killings has been recovered, Newman said.

The FBI, U.S. Marshals, Virginia State Police and multiple local law enforcement agencies are assisting in the investigation, Newman said.

Wright is being housed at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail without bond, Newman said. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney.

He has been charged with three counts of capital murder as well as three counts of concealing a dead body and three counts of using a firearm in commission of a felony, his online jail records show.

It is unclear how long Wright worked with the carnival. Authorities are still investigating Wright's involvement with the carnival to determine whether there could be more victims, Newman said.

A representative for the carnival company did not immediately return ABC News' request for comment.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at (276) 676-6000.

ABC News' Rachel Katz contributed to this report.