BURKE COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Officials have charged three of the people arrested in connection with a missing persons case out of Burke County with murder. The victim, 30-year-old Carlton Lamaar Edmondson, is still missing.
Michael May, James Combs, and Brittany Arnold were all arrested in Tennessee on several charges including conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping. On Wednesday, officials said all three's charges were being upgraded to murder.
Three other people, Robert Leroy Littleton III, his wife, Leigh Katherine Littleton, and Valerie Ann Dollar were all arrested earlier in January on kidnapping charges.
The investigation began on Jan. 19 when the family of Edmondson contacted the Valdese Police Department. The family said they had received phone calls from an unknown person saying their son had been kidnapped. The caller was reportedly demanding money in exchange for Edmondson's return.
Authorities say the "intense investigation" involves several counties in both Tennessee and North Carolina. They did not say what evidence led to May's arrest.
Despite the arrests, Edmondson has not been found. Authorities were able to locate a site in Tennessee where they believe he was beaten while the kidnappers called his family for a $700 ransom.
That beating was captured on one suspect's cell phone, said authorities in Tennessee. That video led to several of the arrests and may lead to more.
A search of the area did not find any more traces of Edmondson. Authorities are also looking into voicemail messages left on the victim's cell phone in the hours leading up to the kidnapping.
The profanity-laced messages demanded Edmondson pay back some money and told him he had "until the end of the day." The caller has not been arrested, but authorities are aware of the calls.
"We just want answers," said Edmondson's mom, Lanisha Kincaid.
They admit that three weeks without hearing from Lamaar is not good, but until they know for sure what happened to him they won't give up.
"Never," Kincaid said, "never."