Authorities in New Jersey and North Carolina are asking new questions in the August 2015 disappearance and death of Felicia Reeves.
Felicia Reeves from her time in the Army in the 1990s. Reeves disappeared from Henderson County in August 2015 and was found dead a week later in New Jersey.

HENDERSONVILLE — A taxi picked up Felicia Reeves near the Rainbow Motel in Hendersonville on the evening of Aug. 19, 2015. That was the last confirmed sighting of her in North Carolina.

A week later, a maid at the Royal Motel in Elizabeth, N.J., reported finding Reeves’ body hanging in a bathroom.

Just over a month before her disappearance, the 40-year-old disabled Army veteran had posted claims to social media that she was a police informant.

Authorities in New Jersey treated Reeves’ death as a suicide from the beginning. Family members who contacted Carolina Public Press about her case have serious doubts about this conclusion. They wonder whether the cops’ inquiry ever seriously considered any other explanation.

A CPP Investigation

Reeves’ mother and stepfather, Marshia and Stephen Karpusiewicz of Hendersonville, as well as her sister, Suzan Bayorgeon of Wisconsin, talked with CPP about their concerns.

They pointed to unanswered questions about why Reeves traveled to New Jersey and discrepancies in the official story of what happened to her there. They also noted her ties to violent individuals, including organized criminal elements who might have wanted her silenced.

CPP has obtained documents and talked to public officials and others in at least three North Carolina counties and four other states in an effort to piece together what happened to Felicia Reeves.

Analysis of the information available points to multiple problems with the official explanation for Reeves’ death and disappearance, suggesting authorities may indeed be mistaken in the conclusions they’ve drawn so far.

Looking back

Felicia Reeves competes in gymnastics in Oklahoma during the early 1990s. She disappeared from Hendersonville in August 2015 and was found dead in New Jersey a week later.
Felicia Reeves competes in gymnastics in Oklahoma during the early 1990s.

Although her family had roots in Western North Carolina, they had moved frequently as she grew up, due to her father’s military career. While living in Oklahoma during her teen years, she won multiple awards as a competitive gymnast.

Felicia Reeves appears here from her teen years. The graduate of T.C. Roberson High School in Buncombe County disappeared from Henderson County in August 2015 and was found dead a week later in New Jersey.
Felicia Reeves during her teen years.

The family moved to Buncombe County in the early 1990s and Reeves attended high school at T.C. Roberson in Asheville.

“Her and I tried out for cheerleading our freshman year but didn’t make the team,” recalls Tracie Edwards, a close friend from that time period who communicated with CPP through an email to Reeves’ sister.

“Other than that she had no extracurricular activities that I am aware of. Felicia just liked being around people. She loved to hang out, listen to music and was always up for an adventure. She loved fashion and always had nice clothes. She would never hesitate to share anything she had with me.

“She loved her family and her brothers and sister. She was always so proud of (her siblings) Billy and Suzan for going into the military and always talked about joining the Army.

“Felicia was the kind of friend that always had your back. If she loved you she would stand up for you no matter what. I was proud to become friends with Felicia when she moved to NC in 1987-88 and continue our friendship off and on over the years. Her and I were inseparable from the time we met until I moved to Florida in 1990. We kept in touch and when I moved back to NC in 1993 we picked back up where we left off.

“We went our separate ways around 1994 just because we chose different paths. I was in a relationship and getting ready to get married and she was wanting to join the military.”

Reeves joined the Army and served as a medical worker. She was stationed in Korea in 1995.

According to her sister, she allowed an acquaintance to walk her back to the barracks one evening. On the way, he sexually assaulted her. In the course of the attack, her back was badly injured, leaving her with a permanent disability. She also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

She eventually married a young man she had met in the service.

Felicia Reeves appears at the time of her first wedding in the 1990s. She disappeared from Henderson County in August 2015 and was found dead a week later in New Jersey.
Felicia Reeves appears at the time of her first wedding in the 1990s.

But after a tubal pregnancy that led to a miscarriage, her family says the marriage became troubled and eventually ended. Even so, her first husband has remained on friendly terms and kept contact with the family.

Reeves parents divorced and her father, retired Army Command Sergeant Major William Reeves Sr., settled in Rowan County. He was living in an assisted living facility there in 2015 and died a few months after she did.

But Felicia Reeves resided near her father in Salisbury for a few years. She never updated her drivers license to show any other residence despite moving around many times during the following decade. While in Salisbury, she took classes at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

From 2002 to 2004, Reeves attended the New York School for Medical and Dental Assistants in New York City. As part of her training, she interned at the burn center of Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in Harlem.

She eventually returned to North Carolina and remarried, this time to Titus Boley, who had grown up in Polk County, not far from where her mother and stepfather were living in Hendersonville.

It would be a troubled match. Boley beat her repeatedly, twice serving time in prison for the abuse. In 2009, while they were living in Pisgah Forest in Transylvania County the attacks escalated. On one occasion he put his hands around her throat and squeezed. On another, he held a shard of glass to her throat.

Reeves had two sons with Boley, but the Department of Social Services intervened due in part to abuse in the home. While the oldest son is being raised by her parents, the younger boy was put in foster care in Transylvania County.

Her family says Reeves discovered that his foster family was abusing him and he was placed in the care of another family. The incident was just one point in a running feud between Reeves and Transylvania County Department of Social Services.

In social media posts in 2015, Reeves took credit for reporting on misconduct at DSS, resulting in the termination of several DSS employees a few years earlier. CPP has not been able to corroborate those claims.

Due to the disability she sustained during her Army service, Reeves received prescriptions for painkillers through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her family said she became addicted. She also began using other drugs.

The relationship with Boley was not the last with a violent individual. A later boyfriend is currently serving time in prison for attempting to run over a Transylvania County sheriff’s deputy in 2013 while he was fleeing an arrest warrant for assaulting a public official in Buncombe County.

Those two cases aside, family members do not know the identity of many of Reeves’ friends from the last couple of years. But circumstantial evidence  and unexplained statements Reeves made before her death have let them to believe she had fallen in with some dangerous people.

They said she was forced to sell her prescription drugs by at least one previous partner. He also drugged her and carried her to a strip club in South Carolina where he forced her to perform to make money for him, they said.

Reeves’ online posts from 2015 appear to describe people using drugs and other forms of manipulation to make her do things against her will, apparently in both North Carolina and Kentucky, as well as during trips to various locations.

Bayorgeon said Reeves had become afraid of what these people might do to her during the months leading up to her disappearance and death. “Felicia stated numerous times that if she was found dead, it was murder,” her sister said.

Reeves was buried Sept. 4, 2015, at the Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Black Mountain with military honors. Her obituary appeared in the Hendersonville Times-News.

Destination New Jersey

Elizabeth, N.J., is located just west of New York City and south of Newark, adjacent to the Newark Liberty International Airport. A city of some 124,000 residents, Elizabeth holds a reputation for its high level of crime and struggling economy, especially in the northeastern area of town around the Royal Motel.

“For Elizabeth, we found that the violent crime rate is one of the highest in the nation across communities of all size,” writes the Website Neighborhood Scout, which specifically notes that the city’s murder rate is unusually high.

Some more affluent parts of Elizabeth may face less criminal activity. Statistics show the section of town near the Royal Motel is not one of those places. Hardly a popular tourist destination, the motel has made headlines in recent years for violent crimes and suspicious deaths.

Why did Reeves choose to travel so far to check into this particular motel?

Phone records and social media references show Reeves with contacts around the country, but CPP hasn’t found any recent ties she had to New York or New Jersey. She did spend time in Queens and Harlem during her medical training through 2004. She also briefly dated a European man who was living in Queens. But those contacts were from more than a decade earlier.

None of the family members with whom CPP spoke said they had any knowledge that she had been planning such a trip. In the weeks leading up to her disappearance, Reeves had been living at the Rainbow Motel in southern Hendersonville within walking distance of her family’s residence. She was in frequent contact with them.

However, family members say that she did not communicate with any of them after her disappearance from North Carolina on Aug. 19. And she had kept in touch with her mother and stepfather frequently during other recent excursions, even if they didn’t know where she was going or why. During an extended stay in Hopkinsville, Ky., earlier in 2015, her mother said she called almost daily.

That’s in part because they were caring for her oldest son, with whom she enjoyed a close relationship, despite a custody decision that had separated them, Reeves’ mother said.

Felicia Reeve's suddenly checked out of the Rainbow Motel in Hendersonville on Aug. 19, 2015. Frank Taylor/Carolina Public Press
Felicia Reeve’s suddenly checked out of the Rainbow Motel in Hendersonville on Aug. 19, 2015. Frank Taylor/Carolina Public Press

Nothing about an upcoming trip to New York or New Jersey appears in Reeves’ social media posts leading up that time. And she had been very active on social media throughout the summer of 2015 after starting a new account in early June.

How did she get there?

While the reason she traveled to New Jersey remains open to speculation, her mode of transportation is almost equally unclear. Whether she was traveling alone and of her own volition remains unknown as well.

A receipt on a VISA gift card shows that she made an $88.19 purchase for a service billing itself as “ASHSHUTTLE” on Aug. 19 after opening the card and putting $200 on it earlier that day. Multiple ground-transport services call themselves “Asheville Shuttle,” but the charges here appear to be a match for a service that transports passengers to the Charlotte airport after picking them up at a hotel near the Asheville airport. That pickup site is at the Henderson County line, about a 20 minute drive from the Rainbow Motel where she was last seen.

CPP asked the flight-tracking service FlightAware to examine what routes from Charlotte to Newark, N.J., would have been available around that time. There were two late-night flights on Aug. 19 with 10 more on Aug. 20 and a similar schedule on Aug. 21. Other flights out of Greenville, Asheville or Charlotte could also have brought her to the greater New York City area.

But that’s primarily a guess. She could have traveled from Hendersonville to New Jersey by several other means. She might have taken any number of other flights to and from various airports.

She’s also known to have disliked air travel. Someone could have driven her. Or she might have taken a bus. But there’s at least some reason to suspect she went by train.

A receipt found in her motel room places her on Aug. 21 at New York City’s Penn Station, a center for train travel located in Manhattan. Although no trains run in Western North Carolina, she could have taken the shuttle service to the Charlotte airport, a local taxi to the Amtrak station there and then caught a train to New York.

If she did pay her own way, she likely used cash since no record of any such purchase shows up on her VISA gift card or her bank account.

Official investigation and discrepancies

“On Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, at 11:36 hrs. Officer Branco and I responded to the Royal Motel room 26, 511 Spring St., on a report of a suicide,” wrote Elizabeth Police Officer Douglas Streep in his report on Reeves’ death.

If Elizabeth Police ever seriously considered the possibility that the case was anything other than a suicide, no such deliberation shows up on their reports. CPP left multiple messages with police in Elizabeth over several weeks with no response at the time of publication.

An autopsy by the Union County, N.J., Department of Public Safety clearly supported the finding that Reeves died by hanging. The designated forensic pathologist, Dr. Beverly Leffers, conducted a postmortem exam Aug. 29 at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

“When the body is received, there is a bedsheet tied around the neck with a loose knot on the left side of the neck,” Leffers wrote in her autopsy report.

“Removal of the bedsheet reveals a corresponding brownish, irregularly wide, depressed ligature mark which extends from the hairline in the midline of the posterior neck downwards, across the right side of the neck and upwards along the front of the neck and the left side of the neck to the hairline just behind the left ear.”

Leffers concluded that the evidence pointed to death by hanging and identified the manner of death as suicide. CPP has reached out to Leffers’ office to ask whether this finding excluded other explanations, such as that someone could have placed Reeves body where it was found, either before or after her death, in a deliberate attempt to make her death appear to be a suicide.

But due to New Jersey’s privacy laws, it’s unlikely that Leffers or anyone else will be allowed to talk with CPP on this issue.

Death investigations in New Jersey work differently from those in North Carolina and many other states. If police determine that a case could be a homicide, they turn it over to prosecutors for further investigation and police detectives cease to be involved. But as long as a case clearly appears to be suicide, it stays in the hands of the police. That was how this case was handled. Prosecution investigators who consider questions of murder were never asked to look at Reeves’ death.

CPP has identified multiple discrepancies or unresolved issues with police findings, autopsy findings and other circumstantial evidence.

Call from a man: Reeves’ family in North Carolina have described receiving a phone call from a man around the time she checked into the Royal Motel. He asked for her mother’s credit card to pay for any phone calls Felicia Reeves made, which would be priced at $15 each. He did not explain where he was calling from, so the family still had no idea that she was in New Jersey or staying at a motel. This request was denied. It’s not clear whether the caller was actually with Reeves as he claimed. The family said the motel staff later told them that Reeves arrived alone and only women were working the desk at the time she checked in. They reported no problem with her paying ahead for a week’s stay nor any issue with phone calls. She used cash. Who was this man and why did he make this call?

Inattentive cleaner: According to Officer Streep’s report, a motel maid went the room on Aug. 28, knocking on the door and then proceeding to clean the room and make the bed when no one answered. She apparently noticed nothing amiss until she opened the bathroom door and saw Reeves’ body hanging from the shower rod by a sheet. Why did the maid not notice that a sheet was missing when she made the bed?

Based on the subsequent autopsy report, Reeves body was already in a state of early decomposition. That’s consistent with her having died a few days before being found, perhaps around Aug. 24 or 25. Why wasn’t the room cleaned sooner? Why didn’t the maid notice the smell of a body that had been there this long?

Drug and alcohol use: Reeves had a long record of addiction to prescription painkillers. A motel manager who identified herself only as Margaret talked with CPP by phone about the case and noted that Reeves was a heavy drug user. But a subsequent toxicology report did not find any evidence of drugs in her system. Instead, it found she had been drinking. Reeves did sometimes use alcohol, probably to excess. She had an arrest for an open container and drunk and disorderly behavior in Buncombe County in 2013. But family members say she generally avoided alcohol because of the drugs she used. She also had cut back on her drug use thanks to a methadone program. But she had obtained additional prescription painkillers through her VA doctor in Asheville in July, a few weeks before traveling to New Jersey. In her social media posts, she described being under a heavy dosage of drugs in early August, possibly against her will.

The maid reported finding numerous beer bottles in Reeves’ room, a room that police have concluded had no visitors. When did Reeves bring such a large amount of alcohol into the room? Why didn’t anyone report finding the prescription medication on which she relied? Why didn’t the drugs show up in her toxicology report? And if she wasn’t using any drugs during her week at the Royal Motel, during which she supposedly never left her room, how did a motel employee know that Reeves was a heavy drug user?

Missing jewelry: Police returned one relatively plain ring to the family. But Reeves’ mother said Felicia wore rings on every finger and toe. What happened to the rest of them? She also had a diamond setting in a cheek piercing that remains unaccounted for.

Missing money: “There was no money at the scene to be tagged for safekeeping,” Streep’s report says. But her debit card and about $17 was found in her pockets and forwarded to her mother. Her bank account, which contained about $3,600, was not active during the time she was in New Jersey. Just before her disappearance, family members say Felicia was known to be walking around with more than $10,000, partially as a result of backlogged disability checks that the VA released to her at once and she had cashed. Where was this money?

What she wore: “The body was received clad in one pair of purple underwear and one white and orange top,” the autopsy report said. But family members recall Reeves as “vain” about her appearance. They said she would never have worn lingerie that didn’t match. Reeves’ mother said her daughter had also recently purchased quite a bit of new clothes. These were not found among her belongings returned from the motel.

Whose luggage?: One item returned from the room doesn’t seem to belong, Reeves’ family said. When she left her motel in Hendersonville a week earlier, she was transporting personal items in plastic bags. But police found a purple suitcase on wheels in her New Jersey motel room. The item appears worn, not severely, but too much to have been a recent purchase. So whose suitcase is it, and how did it get in the motel room?

Doubts about autopsy

Family members have also noticed some strange things about the autopsy. Descriptions of some obvious external details, such as a tattoo that named Reeves’ two sons, appear thorough and accurate. But Leffers made no mention of another tattoo in a less obvious location.

The report says Reeves weighed 150 pounds, but her parents say Reeves was always tall and slender, around 115 pounds.

At least one detail in the autopsy report that could only have been known from a careful examination of Reeves’ internal remains appears incorrect. “The Fallopian tubes and ovaries have a normal appearance,” Leffers wrote.

The doctor could not have known about Reeves’ difficult tubal pregnancy years earlier that led to the removal of an ovary. But that change to Reeves’ anatomy should have been apparent from the examination Leffers said she conducted. It should have been noted in the autopsy report.

Do these discrepancies add up to doubts about the care with which Reeves’ remains were examined? Should they raise doubts about the validity of the conclusion that her death was a suicide by hanging?

In her room and alone?

Among the most problematic issues in this case is the claim from both motel staff and police that Reeves never left her room and never received any visitors. Margaret, the New Jersey hotel clerk, told CPP that she never saw Reeves leave the room. But under further questioning, Margaret admitted that she only worked an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift, so Reeves could have left the room at other times or been visited by other parties without being noticed.

But there were other eyes that should have noticed anyone coming or going around the clock.

Although Reeves’ parents say police initially told them there was no security footage from the site, both her sister and a New Jersey newspaper columnist who interviewed police and later talked with CPP say police obtained security recordings after all. They say a police detective described viewing days of surveillance footage the motel gave him, supposedly showing the door to Reeves’ room from the time she checked in until her body was found. They said he told them that it showed no one else entering or exiting the room.

This begs obvious questions. The room contained no way to store or prepare food, even though Reeves was clearly there and alive for several days. So if she never left, what did she eat? And where did the beer bottles that the maid reported cleaning up come from?

But another find in the room provides a strong indication that she either left the room or someone else entered.

Among her belongings was an Amtrak ticket purchased at 11:40 a.m. on Aug. 23 at Penn Station. The ticket, in Felicia Reeves’ name, was for a train to Philadelphia leaving at 12:06 p.m. that day. The purchase was made with $100 from the VISA gift card and $5 in cash. It corresponds with a $100 Amtrak transaction at Penn Station on the card statement.

CPP has asked Amtrak whether the ticket was ever used. Amtrak said it cannot answer that question due to privacy concerns. If any return ticket was purchased, it was part of a different transaction, likely with cash. The motel in New Jersey is a short distance from New York City, but a long trip from Philadelphia.

While the ticket raises additional mysteries about her whereabouts and actions during the days leading up to her death, its location back in her room is telling. The ticket and her VISA gift card used to purchase it could not have gotten into her room without help, even if someone other than Reeves purchased it.

Since the purchase occurred on Aug. 23, two days after she checked into the Royal Motel and five days before she was found dead, the claim that she never left the room and had no visitors doesn’t hold up. So why did police find no trace of anyone coming or going on the recordings the motel provided?

What was she doing?

Receipts found in the room show Reeves made some purchases on Aug. 21 before she checked into the room that night. She bought bottles of Aleve and Tylenol with cash at a Penn Station newsstand. She also broke a $20 bill, buying a fountain drink at a Subway in Queens around 8 p.m.

Her VISA gift card statement shows Reeves made two transactions involving New York City’s MetroTransit subway system. Both are time-stamped for 1:27 p.m. on Aug. 24., three days after she checked into the Royal Motel. But since the transactions take place in two different parts of the city – Jamaica Center in Queens and 42nd Street in Manhattan – they couldn’t have taken place at the same time. This suggests a lag in the way the card reports times of purchase. One likely explanation is that the two transactions took place on Aug. 21 before she checked into the room in New Jersey, since it’s clear she was in each of those parts of New York during that day.

The narrative that emerges from looking at all of Reeves’ purchases and movements appears at odds with the official account of her time in New York and New Jersey in other ways.

This claim ticket for lenses with a $140 deposit down was found in Felicia Reeves' motel room after her death. It was purchased on Aug. 21, the same day she arrived in the New York City area.
This claim ticket for lenses with a $140 deposit was found in Felicia Reeves’ motel room after her death. It was purchased on Aug. 21, the same day she arrived in the New York City area.

One item found in the room underscores this puzzle. It’s a claim ticket for eyeglasses or contacts at Cohen’s Fashion Lenses. Reeves put down a $140 deposit on Aug. 21. The chain has many stories throughout New York and Northern New Jersey, but none in the Carolinas.

The store number for the glasses purchase appears to be 193, but a clerk at a Manhattan location told CPP that the chain doesn’t operate a store with that number. One store is located adjacent to Penn Station where she was known to have been on that date, but that store didn’t recognize the claim number on her ticket, 2603996, or have a record of a deposit in her name. A call to the company’s corporate headquarters in Kentucky had not been returned at the time this story was published.

Her mother said Reeves had astigmatism and nearsightedness and was dependent on her contacts or glasses. She left her glasses in North Carolina. Her contact lenses were not reported by police or described in the autopsy. But she never went anywhere without them, her mother told CPP.

What does this add up to?

Reeves arrived in New York City on Friday, Aug. 21, possibly by plane, train or a short subway or taxi ride from the airport in New Jersey. She purchased over-the-counter pain medication at a train station in Manhattan. She put down the deposit for new glasses that day, but apparently not at the location across the street from where she purchased the medicine. Later she bought a soda in Queens. She likely took the subway between boroughs.

Queens is located on the northwestern corner of Long Island, just east of Manhattan. Elizabeth, N.J., is to the west of Manhattan. Rather than stopping at points along a simple route, Reeves was traveling in different directions and reversing course. Two days later Reeves was back in Manhattan, purchasing a train ticket to Philadelphia. She either never used the ticket or came back through means that she paid for in some other way.

Do these movements look like those of someone who traveled alone to a distant location for the purpose of taking her own life? Or do they look like the deliberate steps of someone who expected to be around for a while and was transacting business at several locations?

Was she an informant?

“Everything will come out,” Reeves wrote in a social media post on July 5, 2015. “Who is backstabbing me and who is backstabbing you. That’s why I don’t get too damn upset.”

She followed up with additional posts the same day in all caps. “Let’s raise the price on my head,” she wrote. “What would you say if I told you I was an informant?”

Reeves did attempt to contact local authorities in Hendersonville about her concerns, but family members say they didn’t take her seriously. Whether she was actually working as informant for any agency isn’t known.

But she did make the threat. And within a few weeks, she disappeared and was found dead under mysterious circumstances.

Her social media posts from 2015 show that she was wrestling with her mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and drug use. She described an unsuccessful “suicide attempt,” apparently involving drugs in late July or early August, at about the time she had difficulties obtaining her disability payments and medication from the VA.

She also had a grievance pending against Western State Hospital, a mental health facility in Hopkinsville, Ky., though the nature of her dealings with Western State are protected by privacy laws. An ongoing feud with DSS over her children continued.

Her family described two thefts from her bank account in 2015, one a scam by a bank employee who repeatedly skimmed from Reeves’ account and the other a woman who entered a Greenville, S.C., bank branch with fake credentials and withdrew money from Reeves’ account.

According to her family, the bank agreed that she had been victimized and refunded the money in both cases. CPP was unable to confirm this because the bank doesn’t report such crimes to police and could not discuss the situation with CPP due to privacy rules.

Reeves’ social media posts from June, July and August are confusing. She may have been talking back and forth with someone who has since deleted their online posts, leaving little context for Reeves’ statements. She also admitted she was in a troubled mental state during this time period.

But one that emerges from reading her remarks is that she believed someone forced her to do things against her will and was out to make her life miserable because she had stopped. She repeatedly threatened to bring down these unnamed people.

And the bank fraud, related or not, appeared to Reeves to fit into this larger pattern.

Human trafficking?

Her sister believes Reeves may have become involved with a multi-state human-trafficking ring that was using her to recruit young girls for sexual exploitation. They may have been using her addictions to control her.

During her last two years, Reeves spent substantial sums on clothing and jewelry as well as items for her children. She traveled frequently to large cities in distant states (but not, as far as her family knows, to New York or New Jersey) and without much explanation as to why. But she had no apparent income besides her disability checks.

Bayorgeon took possession of one of the cellphones in Reeves’ New Jersey motel room. Calls to the phone came in from men seeking personal services, such as “physical therapy,” without knowing that Reeves had died.

But Reeves was never a physical therapist.

When asked how they got Reeves’ number, a man calling from a Texas number told Bayorgeon that he had contacted her through a listing on the online classified service While legitimate services are advertised on the site, it’s been widely accused of acting as an unwitting conduit for human traffickers who market children for sexual exploitation.

The same phone also received multiple messages from several people using different numbers claiming to work for a certain pharmacy that had a prescription waiting for Reeves, Bayorgeon said. But the pharmacy in question doesn’t exist, she found.

Someone appeared to be talking in code, but what about?

During the last couple of years, Reeves made quick and unexplained trips to various locations, including Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and Ohio, according to her family, phone records and online posts.

In her social media post following the claim that she was a police informant, Reeves wrote, “You sure you want me to leave my friends with yours.”

She then added, “As for the rest… they have every call — every text — every email and I think that after that whole Greyhound thing they got your ass on tape. So I am pretty sure I don’t have to be here to testify anyways.”

Do all of these hints add up, as her sister suspects, to human trafficking? Are they in reference to some other criminal activity? Or could they simply be the statements of someone who was mentally troubled and battling drug addiction?

The case may have another tie to human trafficking. Reeves was not the first woman to die under mysterious circumstances at the Royal Motel in recent years.

Brooke LaZare died of a heroin overdose there in 2012. As in Reeves’ case, LaZare’s possessions were missing and someone had cleaned the room before police arrived. A man seen on security cameras leaving the room was eventually charged with failing to report her death.

But one of the theories authorities have explored in that case is that LaZare was caught up in human trafficking and had already been taken to another area motel to be sexually exploited the same day. In this theory, the heroin was used to make LaZare compliant, but when too much was administered, the dose was fatal.

Has a criminal enterprise been frequenting this motel, leading to the deaths of both women? Or are the cases unrelated?

Closed case?

Because Felicia Reeves’ death was ruled a suicide in the jurisdiction where it occurred, no police agency has looked into any of these questions about Reeves’ death, unless it has done so without making that inquiry public.

Bayorgeon met with a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in New Jersey about the case. A New Jersey journalist talked to the same agent. CPP spoke informally about the situation with an FBI agent based in Asheville.

None of them gave any indication that federal officers have been persuaded to launch an investigation into Reeves’ death. But the FBI doesn’t generally announce such an investigation until it makes arrests.

If Reeves was being blackmailed or forced to act against her will when she disappeared on Aug. 19, then it’s possible that a crime occurred in one or more North Carolina jurisdictions, any of which could decide to look into her case.

Regardless of what police think, Felicia Reeves’ mother is confident that she didn’t take her own life, in part because no matter how difficult some things had been, she didn’t want to leave behind the son being raised by his grandparents.

“I do know that she would never want to lose (her son) for any amount of money,” Marshia Karpusiewicz told CPP.  “He absolutely worshiped his mamma and she worshiped him. He though she was the most beautiful thing in the world.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated in several further installments. A short followup story from March 2016 examines statements Elizabeth, New Jersey, police gave to a Newark reporter, which are disputed by Felicia Reeves’ family and the account of another New Jersey journalist. A longer update from August 2016 looks at multiple developments, including a call from someone claiming to be with the police who told the family to stop seeking answers.

Investigation Continues

CPP continues to look into aspects of Reeves’ life, disappearance and death. Those who may have information that could help answer some of these questions are encouraged to contact Managing Editor Frank Taylor at or call CPP at 828-774-5290.

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Frank Taylor is the managing editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact him at

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  1. This is really sad.. A person cannot just do all these things in life to be a strong woman coming from serving our country to her kids and family and just hang…they’re participates to do this to her..God bless her life,,her children and family..

  2. I hope this will be exposed more and more as facts already show this is a coverup. Many I have talked with agree and want to see this investigated by an outside party. I am so sorry for this family’s loss. Please don’t give up finding the answer.