Missing and Murdered in North Carolina- The Cases of Lumbee Stolen Sisters

We’ve spoken before on the Lost Souls of America Podcast about the difficulties indigenous women face when it comes to getting equal attention to their cases. Biases, jurisdictional problems, distrust of the police- there are a million reasons. Let us share with you some statistics:

“According to the National Crime Information Center, 5,712 American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls were reported missing in 2016 alone, but only 116 of those cases were logged with the Department of Justice. According to the National Institute of Justice, 84 percent of Native women experience violence in their lifetimes, and 56 percent experience sexual violence. Of those victims who experienced sexual violence – an astounding 97 percent were victimized by non-Native perpetrators.”

– Stronghearts Helpline

Those statistics are staggering, and frankly made me feel sick. 97%?? So what can we do about it? Let us read for you an action step from the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center: 

“The National Partners Work Group on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the MMIW Family Advisors are organizing a National Week of Action (April 29-May 5, 2022) to call the nation and the world to action in honor of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Take action by participating in these virtual events, exploring our list of resources, and organizing additional actions in your communities on and around May 5th. Join us in saying ‘enough is enough’—not one more stolen sister.”

-National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center 

This national week of action is going to culminate on May 5th for a day of awareness. We want to share with you a couple more quotes now from the StrongHearts Helpline which is a 24/7 confidential and anonymous culturally-appropriate domestic, dating and sexual violence helpline for Native Americans. We’ll be sure to put the link in our sources for this and anything else that may help you take action this week. 

“May 5 has been commemorated as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Across the nation, we are called upon to wear red to acknowledge thousands of young women and girls who go missing each year without so much as a search party. Topping a long list of reasons why law enforcement officials are unable to respond in a timely manner are being underfunded, short-staffed, and jurisdictional issues between Native and non-Native judicial systems.”

– Strong Hearts Helpline

One thing you may notice as you’re engaging in these calls to action is a lot of RED. Why do they wear red?

“It has been said that red is a color that transcends the physical world and calls to the ancestors in the spirit world. For ceremony and pow-wow, Native Americans dressed their children in red as an introduction to the ancestors – calling upon them as guardians to the young. However, the color red had other uses and symbolic meanings that differ among Indigenous tribes in North America. It has been used by the young warrior painting his face and his horse, it has also been used to beautify the faces of young women and their clothing. Today, the role of red is being used to call attention to the invisible – missing and murdered.”

– Strong Hearts Helpline

But splashing some red in your outfit on May 5th is simply NOT enough, so please hear these women’s stories tonight- as little details as we have in some cases- but also be sure to listen and follow our calls to action. Support is wonderful but without action it doesn’t do much, seek out free ways to engage if money prohibits you. During this week please feel free to tag us in any actions you take on social media and we’ll share it with our audience as well! 

Our story takes place tonight primarily in Robeson County North Carolina, an area that is 42% Native American. According to a database created by the Missing Murdered Indigenous Coalition of North Carolina, more than 600 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been murdered, but that number is probably higher, since its nearly impossible to get accurate. Many of these cases go unreported or uninvestigated, and calculating this is a more recent study despite the fact that, well, they were here first. 

Lumbee Tribe from the Fayetteville Observer

Today, there are 55,000 members of the Lumbee tribe in this region, making it the largest tribe east of the Mississippi river. The Lumbee Tribe website has a wealth of information for anyone who’d love to know more about the history, culture, and current events facing the Lumbee tribe today. Here’s a quote from their history page: 

“ In southeastern North Carolina, amongst the pines, swamps, and dark waters of the Lumbee River, you will find the heart and homeland of the Lumbee People.  The ancestors of the Lumbee came together in the shelter of this land hundreds of years ago – survivors of tribal nations from the Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Siouan language families, including the Hatteras, the Tuscarora, and the Cheraw. The ancestors of the Lumbee were recognized as Indian in 1885 by the State of North Carolina.  In 1956, Congress recognized the Lumbee as an Indian tribe while denying the People any federal benefits that are associated with such recognition – an action that the Lumbee continue to fight today.” 


The culture of Robeson county has historically been one that created a lack of trust among the native communities. More than 30% of the people there live below the poverty line. In 2017, the year of the main murders we’re speaking about tonight, the violent crime rate was 920.3 per every 100,000 people- the highest violent crime rate in the state. Yet people on the frontlines say that Law Enforcement Officers often mislabel Native Americans as hispanic or black. One study even shows that 13% of Law enforcement agencies don’t even include Native American as an identifier! So by 2017 Robeson county with its high violent crime rate and lack of cultural education among its police force had become the perfect breeding ground for indigenous cases to slip straight through the cracks.  

Our story begins tonight with a non-native woman, 32 year old Christina Bennett who preferred to go by the name Kristin. Like most of the women we’ll discuss tonight, the bulk of the source material you can find about Kristin on the internet talks about her death, rather than her life. Before I share with you the tragedy of her passing, let’s take a moment to remember that Kristin- that all these women- had families, had loved ones, had dreams, had aspirations. They all had things like a food they couldn’t get enough of, maybe allergies, maybe a favorite sweater they liked to curl up in. They were people with a wealth of experiences and memories and in many cases, their pasts were complicated. Even posthumously their families have to struggle with that perception in the media. For them it often feels lonely at best, and at worst even like revictimizing them, wanting to reduce them down to their flaws and not the wholeness of who they were. 

Kristin Bennett

Though Kristin herself wasn’t a member of the Lumbee tribe, many of her affiliations were- her partner, child’s father, friends, etc. According to one of the sources I used (the Red Justice Project, a fantastic podcast from two Native women about the MMIW crisis in North Carolina), she initially moved to Robeson county for a relationship which I hear may have been abusive and unhealthy, but she was doing the best she could to turn her life around, according to her family. Her mom says that she was just days away from picking her daughter up after regaining legal custody. 

On April 17th, 2017, police were called to a vacant home near the railroad tracks on Peachtree Lane in Lumberton North Carolina for a strong odor. The body of Kristin Bennett was found at 9:30 am. She was nude, wrapped in a blanket, and stuffed in a TV cabinet. 

As police began to process the crime scene, another suspicious odor was brought to their attention less than four blocks away on East Fifth street. There they found the body of 36 year old mother Rhonda Jones. She was also nude, and had been stuffed face down into a trash can. 

Rhonda Jones

Shortly after the women were found, media was in the neighborhood putting together a story. One woman who was interviewed by a local CBS reporter had been a friend of Rhonda’s, Megan Oxendine. The reporter himself said that Megan appeared shaken by the horrible news, and watching the footage does make you wonder if she’s just sad to lose a friend, or if perhaps there was fear in her voice for her own safety. 

Still image from Megan Oxendine’s news interview

6 weeks after her interview, the backpack Megan was wearing on camera was found discarded in a trash barrel. On June 3rd, two young men found her nude body hidden in the bushes outside of a vacant house on East Eighth Street, in close proximity to where Rhonda’s body had been discovered. 

Megan Oxendine

Initially, if you can believe this, the cases were investigated as unrelated. But thanks to the relentless love and anger that’s fueling the weary Lumbee community, the Lumbee police department requested assistance from the FBI after Megan’s murder in June of 2017. There’s currently a reward of $30,000 for information leading to an answer in the deaths of these women. 

Though the Lumberton Police Department and the FBI say they’ve been hard at work on the case, some of the families of these women feel otherwise. Sheila Price, Rhonda’s mother, believes that the girls all suffered from police bias and victim blaming. Just days after the discoveries of the bodies, the police chief released a public statement saying that the women were known drug users and this was an area of prostitution. The families felt this did a great disservice to how seriously the case was taken, both by the police and the public. And though the women were known to engage in drug use, they were not known prostitutes, and even if they were this doesn’t mean their lives were any less valuable. 

One other important thing to note is that the autopsies took well over a year to get results, and other evidence processing took even longer than that. When the autopsies did finally come back, the cause and manner of deaths for all three women were listed as undetermined. To remind everyone, this means that they’re unsure physically what killed the women, but also that they can’t tell if the deaths were even murder. To hear officials tell it, there’s simply not any evidence to say so, but this has been called into question a lot by the community. From their perspective, even if all three women happened to die of accidental overdoses, SOMEONE hid their bodies at best. Rhonda did not overdose and jump naked headfirst into a trash can. Kristin was not likely hiding in this TV cabinet when she died.. Also the people who found Megan used the word “beaten” to describe how she looked. It just doesn’t make sense, and the undetermined status feels hurtful to those who are still seeking answers. 

To date, police have released next to zero information about the nature or status of the case,, simply that they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. They do say there is evidence though, and have released some things the public can look for as told by the Behavioral Analysis Unit at the FBI:

“We believe that this offender may have left the community, after this happened. If they didn’t leave the community, their behavior probably changed. They may have started drinking. They may have quit their job. Maybe inconsistent behavior. They may have told someone. That they did it. And it was brushed aside… Sometimes, all it takes is for the community to come forward with that small little bit of information that matches something else that we have. That just kind of completes the puzzle. And I think that is something that we really need from the community right now. Is that little bit of information to match up with the evidence we have. We are asking the community to think back to this timeframe. And go, you know what, I didn’t come forward then, but I think maybe I should come forward now.” 

– Lumberton Police Department based on the FBI’s BAU profile

The horrific murders of these three women should be tragedy enough, and it certainly has caused fear in the community that there could be a potential serial killer- maybe even someone who is targeting Lumbee women. Whether the cases are connected or not, there’s definitely a scary pattern being established in North Carolina for the Indigenous community. Lets take a few moments to talk about some more unsolved cases involving missing and murdered Lumbee members over the years.

Cynthia Jacobs- MISSING

Just weeks after Megan Oxendine’s murder, 41 year old Cynthia Jacobs, another Lumbee woman from Robeson County went missing from East Lumberton. She was a good  friend of Megan Oxendine and some sources say that SHE was the last known person to see Megan alive.  To this day no one knows where she is or what happened to her. I hope for her sake she ran away for her own safety but I’m not sure that’s the most realistic outcome. 

2017 was not the only difficult time for the Lumbee tribe’s women. Obviously this goes back centuries in one way or another, but let’s talk about the 2000’s to start. 

Sara Graham- MISSING

In February 20015, an 18 year old Lumbee girl named Sara Nicole Graham, also from Robeson county disappeared somewhere between home and the start of her shift at Walmart. According to the FBI, Graham left her home in Fairmont, North Carolina, around 6:30 a.m. on February 4, 2015, to go to work at the Wal-Mart in Pembroke, North Carolina, but she never arrived. Her van was found abandoned around 12:15 p.m. on February 4, 2015, in a field along East McDonald Road. She has never been seen since. Graham has short hair, wears glasses, and has braces. She was last seen wearing a blue Wal-Mart vest.

Lauren Holmes- MURDERED

In March of 2013 the body of Lauren Holmes, a 23 year old Lumbee woman from Robeson County, was found in a canal off the side of the road. She’d been shot to death, and the day that she went missing her home was also shot up- her mother was even hit in the arm. Most believe it was related of course, though her case has never made much progress and no arrests have been made. 

Michelle Driggers- MURDERED

In March of 2003, the nude body of 23 year old Michelle Driggers, another Lumbee woman was found in the driveway of a cemetery in Lumberton. It’s believed she was sexually assaulted and stabbed to death.  Just months later and only a mile away,  36 year old Lumbee woman Lisa Hardin’s body was found in the woods in East Lumberton. Her clothes were twisted around her, indicating the probability of sexual assault, and she’d been strangled. (*I could not find photos of Lisa Hardin, and most sources listed her as “a prostitue”- If anyone with connection to Lisa would like to send me her photo I would love to include it)

Both of these murders have been thrown around in connection with the 2017 Lumberton murders, but there’s nothing official to report as far as an investigative stance on that, but it’s certainly shaken the community to think that something so similar could still be happening in their area all these years later. 

Secretary for the US Department of the Interior- Deb Haaland

Early this year in January of 2022 Deb Haaland who is the Secretary for the US Department of the Interior created a new Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Ms. Haaland herself is a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, so this was personal for her and her heritage. Haaland comes from a 35th generation New Mexican family, and she grew up as a military child getting to experience a lot of life at an early age. Not too long ago she was a single mother trading volunteer hours for her kids preschool tuition, and today she is the FIRST Native American serving as a cabinet secretary for the office of the White House. To get where she is today, she lived paycheck to paycheck putting herself through college followed by law school, but she’s never forgotten where she came from and her roots. Back then she served as tribal ambassador for San Felipe Pueblo, and today she still fights for change on a national level to better serve the indigenous populations of the country. She breaks barriers, she opens doors, and she’s someone who can contribute to a lot of good in this fight for justice for the Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women, girls, and two spirits of the country. 

Earlier this month for the anniversary of the murders, Kristin’s mother released a statement through the police department’s facebook page, continuing her 5 year long plea for information: 

“On April 18, 2017 and June 3, 2017, the families of Kristin, AKA, Christina Bennett, Rhonda Jones, and Megan Oxendine received the devastating news of our daughters deaths. It has been 5 very long years, and these cases are unresolved and open for investigation. I am sure I speak for other families, as we will not rest until justice is rightfully served concerning our daughters deaths.

We are speaking in behalf of the victims. We are speaking for the lives that are lost. We are speaking to the public. Please help us pursue justice for Kristin, Rhonda, and Megan. If you have heard something, know something, or have seen something, please contact Law Enforcement. No information is too small or trivial. If you are fearful, call or contact Law Enforcement anonymously. If you prefer you can make arrangements to meet with a plain clothed police officer of your preference, in an unmarked vehicle, in a undisclosed location of your choice. But please make that call!

There are no socio-economic boundaries to tragedy. Everyone deserves a safe place to live, work, attend school, raise your families, and worship. You can remain seated by maintaining your silence, or stand up and make a difference. There are those in your community walking “fancy free” that has no regard for human life, and needs to be held accountable. Someone that is culpable for heinous crimes.

If you “care,” you will “share,” what information you may have concerning our daughters deaths. This is not just a “city matter, ” this is a “community matter.” There are many rumors circulating concerning these cases which are blatantly untrue and have been ruled out, by investigative means. But, please if you have pertinent information, do the right thing, and come forward.

Kristin’s daughter always had the dream, her mother would come home and reunite as a family. Someone destroyed a little girls dreams. Someone destroyed the expectations of not only Kristin’s children, but the children of Rhonda and Megan. I understand there are those that are fearful, but think of the “fear/horror” our daughters faced with the reality their life was coming to an end. How can anyone sit back and do nothing to help?

The Lumberton Police Department, (LPD), State Bureau of Investigation, (SBI), and Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI), have worked relentlessly investigating these cases, but still need the public’s support. There is still a FBI $40,000.00 reward offered for information pertaining to these cases.”

-Nancee Bennett, Christina (Kristin) Bennett’s mother

Call to action: 

If you have any information about ANY of the unsolved crimes I spoke of tonight, please leave an anonymous top for the Robeson County Sheriff’s Department at robesoncoso.org/reach-out/tips or contact the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations at 800- 334-3000 

If you do not have any information about any of these unsolved crimes, but still want to be involved in the cause- and we hope you do!- here are some ways we plan to help, and we invite you to join us: 

  1. If you are located in or near North Carolina, there is a rally to support MMIW and their families on April 30th in Gibsonville. It’ll be at Northeast Park at 10am, and if you need more information on that you can contact  info@mmiwnc.com
  2. I want to direct you to a website loaded with action steps you can take from anywhere: https://www.niwrc.org/mmiwnatlweek22 
    • Here you’ll find a calendar full of webinars, we plan to sign up where we can and hope to see some of you there! 
    • You’ll also find an excellent list of resources you can use at the bottom of that link 


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