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It looked like a brush fire — but was an unrecognizable, burning body, NC cops say

Screenshot from WCTI video of the site where the brush fire led to the discovery of a body in Craven County Monday night.
Screenshot from WCTI video of the site where the brush fire led to the discovery of a body in Craven County Monday night.

A fire call in rural eastern North Carolina turned grisly just before midnight Monday, when firefighters with the West New Fire Department discovered it was fueled by a burning body, reports WNCT and other media outlets.

On Wednesday, authorities announced that they believe the body is that of 40-year-old Nicholas Williams of Rural Hill, who has been missing since Feb. 10, reported WXII.

His roommate, Norris Rochelle Jr., is the prime suspect and has been charged with Williams’ murder, the station said.

TV station WITN reported Wednesday that a second man, Peter Schocker, of New Bern, has also been charged with accessory after the fact of murder in the same case.

The body was found burning on the shoulder of Beamon Road in Craven County, west of the town of New Bern, said WNCT. The town is 130 miles southeast of Raleigh, outside the Croatan National Forest.

Major David McFadden told WITN fire crews arrived about 11:45 p.m., and spotted the corpse after the fire was extinguished.

The victim was “so badly burned that it is unidentifiable,” according to TV station WCTI. An autopsy was done to identify body.

It’s the second time in recent weeks that the Craven County Sheriff’s Office has found an alleged homicide victim at the center of a fire.

Last week, 17-year-old James Gizzi was charged with murdering his grandmother, 68-year-old Majorie Thompson, in early January and setting her home on fire, according to a sheriff’s office Facebook post.

The flames also killed Thompson’s dog, which “was found curled up by her side” in the burned out mobile home, the post said.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.

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