Current LCSO investigation into missing 2001 teen | crime

On Sunday, May 13, 2001, Cosandra Best contacted La Grange police about her missing 16-year-old daughter, Timeka Pridgen. Pridgen was last seen at her home – 201 South Street in La Grange – on Saturday, May 12, 2001, at approximately 10:40 p.m

When her mother, Cosandra, found her missing from the house, she noticed that Timeka had neither put on her shoes nor taken her purse. A search was conducted for Timeka, but she could not be found and her friends were unaware of her whereabouts. La Grange Police enlisted the assistance of the State Bureau of Investigation and the investigation continued.

At this point, a suspect was identified in the case, who was Cosandra’s boyfriend. The suspect, Eric Earl Mercer Moore, then a Goldsboro resident, was interviewed but denied any involvement in Timeka’s disappearance. Moore was a convicted felon who had previously been charged and convicted of several crimes dating back to 1988.

From 1988 to 2005, Moore was charged and/or convicted of rape, assault on a female (twice), assault occasioning great bodily harm, second-degree sex offense, second-degree kidnapping, felony larceny (twice), felony possession of stolen goods, burglary and larceny, felony theft, trespassing, first-degree sexual assault on a child, attempted second-degree sexual assault and five counts of occupational health and safety violations. He spent more than 20 years in prison for these crimes.

Investigators focused on Moore for the following reasons:

· Cosandra stated that she received a call from Moore on the evening of May 12, 2001; He stated that he would arrive at her home within five minutes. That was probably shortly before 10:30 p.m. when Timeka went missing

· Cosandra – who was dozing off and on in her bedroom but expecting Moore’s arrival – thought she heard Moore’s car speeding away after she heard the front door slam. Cosandra didn’t get up right away, thinking Moore had come to the house, but then left, probably upset that she wasn’t ready to leave (the couple had already made plans to go out earlier in the day).

· Eva Best, Cosandra’s mother, also lived in the home; She stated that she was lying in bed in her bedroom and thought she heard Moore’s car, which she had heard many times before, arrive at the house. She reported that 30 minutes later she heard someone brushing against the front door as if they were carrying something out the door. She reported hearing the wooden door slam and someone walking to their car and exiting the driveway. Eva stated that she never got up to investigate the noise

· Cosandra said she called Moore after 10:30 p.m. and apologized for not being up when he got home. Moore denied ever coming to her home. Concerned, Cosandra went to Timeka in the house. Cosandra couldn’t find her daughter and noticed that Timeka had left her shoes and personal belongings in the house. Best stated that she never told Moore that Timeka was missing that evening

· Moore was interviewed sometime after the Timeka disappearance and denied ever going to La Grange on the night of May 12, stating that he had been in Goldsboro all night. This statement contradicts Cosandra’s report that Moore would arrive in 5 minutes. In a later interview, Moore explained that he did not come to La Grange because he was held up after running into an acquaintance in Goldsboro. He stated that he later called Cosandra but that no one answered the phone, so he decided not to come to La Grange

· Investigators retrieved Moore’s cell phone and cell tower records, which showed that just before 10:30 p.m., Moore’s phone was communicating with cell towers along U.S. 70 from Goldsboro to La Grange and then with the same towers from La Grange back to Goldsboro along U.S 70 communicated When this incident occurred, the communication range of the cell towers was only 2 to 3 miles

· Investigators interviewed two Charlotte women who met Moore at the Holiday Inn in Goldsboro in the early morning hours of May 13, shortly after Timeka’s disappearance. The females stated that when Moore arrived at their room he was very agitated, sweating and constantly looking out the window. One of the women stated that Moore’s appearance was unusual and that his knees were dirty or very ashen. They noted that Moore left the hotel room to move his car from a parking spot near the hotel to a parking spot in the back of the hotel parking lot

· During the same interview, the women said Moore was asked, “What’s going on?” Moore reportedly replied that his daughter was missing. Moore often referred to Timeka as his daughter, even though there was no biological relationship between the two. One of the women said she asked Moore why his car was put in the back parking lot, and Moore’s response was, “If my daughter comes by there, she could wait by the car or come in.”

· This was important information as Cosandra had not informed Moore until the next morning that Timeka was missing. When Moore was interviewed, he admitted that he did not learn of Timeka’s disappearance until the next morning. How could Moore know Timeka was missing if he wasn’t informed of her disappearance until the next morning?

· On May 13, the day after Timeka went missing, Cosandra stated that Moore said he was going to his mother’s house in Greenville to celebrate Mother’s Day. Cosandra explained that she then informed Moore about Timeka’s disappearance. She said Moore said he would return to their home in La Grange after visiting his mother. Cosandra explained that when Moore arrived at her home that afternoon, his car appeared to have been thoroughly cleaned. She said Moore’s car was usually found in an unkempt condition. Additionally, Cosandra stated that Moore, a convicted felon, had a handgun wedged between the driver’s seat of his car and the console of his car. Cosandra said she intentionally looked for the gun that day and discovered it was missing from the car. She stated that Moore said he gave the gun to his brother

· On the same day, Cosandra stated that Moore arrived at her home in the evening hours. She said many of her family members were also at the house and gathered about Timeka’s disappearance. Cosandra stated that a family member checked the caller ID on Cosandra’s phone and found that all calls Moore had made the previous day had been deleted from the phone. She stated that Moore was seen at Cosandra’s home that day with the phones in his hands

· Shortly after Timeka disappeared, Cosandra ended her relationship with Moore. According to Cosandra, from the end of the relationship in 2001 until 2023, Moore never once contacted her or visited her to ask about Timeka or the findings about her disappearance

In 2009, the La Grange Police Department was disbanded and the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office took over the missing person’s case. The case has been reviewed over the years. In 2023, the LCSO announced that it would re-investigate this case.

On October 4, 2023, Moore died of an illness in Pitt County. A few weeks before Moore’s death, he was interviewed again by the LCSO but denied any involvement in Timeka’s disappearance.

Several areas were searched last year and further searches are planned for spring 2024. The main focus is the search for Timeka. When Timeka went missing in 2001, she was 16 years old; She would have turned 40 in September of this year.

“While we firmly believe that Eric Earl Mercer Moore is the person responsible for Timeka’s disappearance, we continue to search for Timeka,” Lenoir County Sheriff Jackie Rogers said.

If anyone has information about this case, they are asked to use the LCSO E-Tips online service to provide anonymous information or contact the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office at 252-559-6100.