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NC- Pregnant teen shot to death at bus stop

9-15-2009 North Carolina:

CHARLOTTE -- A Charlotte man wanted for raping his adopted teenage sister turned himself in Monday and was being questioned in connection with her shooting death at a Charlotte school bus stop, police said.

Royce Anthony Mitchell, 36, is a "person of interest" in the slaying of Tiffany Wright, 15, in north Charlotte, according to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman.

Tiffany, who was eight months pregnant and living in a foster home, was shot about 6 a.m. Monday while waiting to catch the bus to her high school.

Medics rushed her to Carolinas Medical Center, where doctors were able to deliver her baby girl. Wright died at the hospital, and the baby was listed in critical condition Monday.

Police issued warrants against Mitchell for statutory rape and indecent liberties with a minor Monday, based on their investigation into Tiffany's death. A police spokesman said Tiffany was the victim of the alleged sex crimes, and that she had been adopted into the Mitchell family.

Police were at Royce Mitchell's home late Monday, as homicide detectives questioned him at police headquarters. Police also said they're looking into whether Mitchell is the father of Tiffany's baby.

Records show Mitchell has no criminal record in North Carolina. In 2008, his wife took out a restraining order against Mitchell, alleging domestic violence, but the case was dismissed.

Federal prison records show a Royce Mitchell, age 36, had been sentenced in 2002 to six years in prison for conspiring to sell drugs in Buffalo, N.Y. Charlotte police couldn't confirm whether that was the same man charged in Monday's case, but records show Mitchell previously lived in Buffalo.

Accounts in the Buffalo News said Royce Mitchell was a quarterback for the semi-professional Buffalo Lancers football team, before being busted on federal drug charges.

The shooting occurred less than a block from her apartment.

Late Monday, five of Tiffany's friends visited the bus stop where she was shot. They wept and hugged one another near the stop, marked by a single bouquet of flowers.

They described Tiffany as goofy and fun, and a good student. She ran track at Bessemer City High, where she previously attended school, and she liked to dance.

"She couldn't dance, but she loved to try," said DeNeika Parker, 17.

Tiffany planned to name her baby Aaliyah and was excited about becoming a mother, said Tyanna Barnette, 16, who said she had known Tiffany since the two were in middle school.

Tiffany was a junior at Hawthorne. Principal Tracey Pickard said Tiffany came to the school in August as a student in the TAPS program for pregnant students. She said the girl had impressed teachers.

"It was clear that Tiffany was academically strong and off to a good start," Pickard said. She said the girl's teachers told her that Tiffany "was extremely focused."

Students at Hawthorne remembered Wright as a smart, friendly girl who did well in school and was always sweet.

"She always had a smile on her face," said Cameron Blakeney, a sophomore who met her at the movies last summer. "She loved to joke. I'm like, devastated, like a lot of people," Blakeney said. "We're all pretty torn up on the inside."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school officials dispatched crisis teams Monday to counsel students who knew Wright. They also said they will work with CMPD to increase police visibility at the bus stop and Hawthorne for the next few days.

Tiffany's grandmother Shirley Boston in Buffalo was shocked and tearful when she learned of her granddaughter's death late Monday.

She spoke with her two weeks ago and was looking forward to helping care for her great-granddaughter. "I had my other granddaughter text her today (Monday) to say she didn't need to buy anything for the baby" because the family would take care of it, Boston said.

Boston said Tiffany spent several childhood years in Buffalo, where her father also lives.

She moved to the Charlotte area and was sent into foster care after her mother lost custody, Boston said. Mecklenburg County DSS officials would not confirm that Monday. The Charlotte Observer was unable to reach Tiffany's foster mother.

Tiffany had managed to keep a positive outlook, despite the challenges in her life, said Ashelee Barber, who said she was the niece of Tiffany's foster mother.

"She was just a very sweet girl," said Barber. "When people go through tough times, they sometimes develop hateful feelings, but she wasn't that way." ..Source.. by ELY PORTILLO, CHRISTOPHER KIRKPATRICK, TONYA JAMESON - McClatchy

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