911: Murder suspect called in house fire

Neighbor saw suspect leaving crime scene, behave suspiciously

New details emerge in murder investigation

NEWPORT - Officials from Carteret County said that the 911 call made to report the fire at a murder victim's home turned out to be the eventual murder suspect.

Deputies said that 30-year-old Rhonda Williams Hagan was the one who called to report that the home of 90-year-old Goldie Hall was on fire.

After fire officials investigated, Hall was not found in her home. Many details about the situation led authorities to believe that foul play was involved. It was later deemed that Hall was murdered. Hagan was arrested Thursday, and Hall's body was found in a wooded area behind the Newport Flea Mall.

A candlelight vigil will be held for Hall at the Broad Creek Fire Department Saturday night at 7:00.

An autopsy is scheduled for Monday at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Investigators are still gathering information about this case, and this story will be updated as new information comes into the newsroom.

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Detectives and SBI agents arrested 30-year-old Rhonda Williams Hagan of Nine Foot Road in Newport, and charged her in the death of Goldie Hall. Carteret County Captain Jason Wank said Hall is Hagan's great aunt.

Hall's body was found in a wooded area in Carteret County behind a flea mall in Newport.

Officers arrived around 2 p.m. Thursday at the scene along a dirt road leading into a wooded area on Carl Garner Road.

A coroner's van arrived around 3 p.m., and law enforcement confirmed shortly after 4 p.m. that her body had been found.

Investigators believe Hagan committed the murder on Sept. 20, the same day Hall's home caught on fire. Officials have not yet said if the fire is connected to the murder.

Newport resident Larry Parmley lives next to the crime scene, and said he witnessed the suspect leaving the woods around 8 a.m. Friday, a day after Hall's house was torched.

"I just happened to look at the road in front of my house, and there was a van here," Parmley said in an interview Thursday. "And I'm curious about anybody who pulls up here because its not normal."

Neighbors said Hagan is familiar with the area where the body was found. Her father is an employee at the Garner Farm, across the street from the crime scene.

"She said, 'I'm helping my dad fix the fence because the cows keep getting out.' But I didn't see anyone except her."

Although Hagan said she was fixing a fence Friday morning, Parmley later realized she did not appear to be dressed for hard work.
"I didn't think anything of it, but, she was in a house coat, first thing in the morning," Pamley said. "She was wearing a pair of short pants and either flip flops or bedroom shoes."

Hagan is now held in the Carteret County Jail without bond. Her first appearance was held Thursday morning, where she was charged with murder.

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Hall, who lived alone, was reported missing Thursday after fire crews responded to a fire at her house on Highway 24 in Gales Creek, near Newport. Investigators have been searching the area for Hall ever since.

Anne Glasey, Hall's niece, said she is hoping answers come forward soon.

"Whatever or whoever knows her whereabouts, please let us know," Glasey said. "Time is running out. We need help, and I feel like somebody knows something."

The cause of the fire is unknown. Investigators at the scene are gathering evidence to determine if arson is suspected.

It's not clear if the case is being called suspicious, but investigators said there are a lot of questions about Hall's disappearance.

Ground and aerial searches have been conducted by deputies, the US Forest Service and the North Carolina Highway Patrol aviation unit. Searches of the surrounding waterways have been conducted by the United States Coast Guard.

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Deputies released a delta alert in the search for 90-year-old Goldie Hall, and a highway patrol helicopter searched the area Thursday afternoon. That search was suspended after 30 minutes because of mechanical problems.

Firefighters were called to her residence at 2065 Highway 24 in Gales Creek, near Newport, and say the fire was contained mostly to the kitchen. 

Broad and Gales Creek Asst. Fire Chief Drew Guthrie said firefighters were concerned Hall was inside, but they did a sweep of the home and didn't find anything. But later Thursday night, Hall was still missing.  That's when Carteret County deputies put out an alert, asking the public's help to find Hall.

"There's no words to describe it," neighbor Anna Willis said. "I just can't understand what has happened to her."

Investigators recovered Hall's cat, Buttercups, from inside the home Thursday. Willis said it isn't like Hall to leave the cat behind.

"She would've gotten in touch with somebody before now because of the cat," Willis said. "She was crazy about Buttercups. Buttercups was her life."

Willis also said Hall is very sharp for her age.

Deputies say Hall was last seen inside her home on Wednesday. Friends and relatives searched the nearby cemetery where Hall often takes walks, but did not find her.

Hall is described as a white female, 5-foot-2 and approximately 100 pounds. She is believed to be wearing a red and white shirt and red pants at the time of her disappearance. She cannot drive a car at this time.

Anyone with information on Hall is asked to call the Carteret County Communications Center at (252) 726-1911 or the Sheriff's Office at (252) 504-4800.

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