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Motive remains a mystery as 17-year-old charged with murder in slaying of NC teens

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A 17-year-old from Mebane has been charged as an adult in the September shooting deaths of two teenagers in Orange County.

Issiah Mehki Ross faces two counts of murder in the killings of 14-year-old Lyric Woods and 18-year-old Devin Clark.

At a news conference in Hillsborough on Monday, authorities said Ross fled to Delaware after the crimes, where two people now face charges of harboring a fugitive. Sheriff Charles Blackwood did not identify the two people charged in Delaware.

Alicia Stemper, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office, said there is no clear motive for the killings.

“We have some theories, and we have some evidence,” she said, “but we can’t speculate as to motive at this time.”

Woods and Clark, who were friends, had been reported missing by their families the weekend they were killed.

Two men riding four-wheel bikes found their bodies around 3 p.m. Sept. 18 along an ATV trail off Buckhorn Road in western Orange County.

“Sheriff Blackwood and I share the community’s grief and outrage,” Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said at Monday’s news conference, accompanied Blackwood Stemper.

“This is a horrible loss for Devin and Lyric’s family and friends, and a tragedy for the entire community,” Nieman said.

Due to the suspect being a juvenile, Nieman said public information in the case remains limited. Even now, Stemper added, authorities are continuing to provide few details in order not to jeopardize the case.

Timeline of killings, suspect’s arrest

Blackwood gave an updated timeline of events surrounding Clark’s and Woods’ deaths.

Between late at night on Sept. 16, and early morning on Sept. 17, Blackwood said Woods left her home. She was reported missing later that Saturday. On Sunday morning, Clark’s family reported him missing to Mebane police.

Blackwood said he believes Ross killed the teens sometime late Friday night or Saturday morning, based on reports from residents near the scene who reported hearing gunshots.

Ross fled later Sunday to Delaware, where he previously lived, Blackwood said.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office worked with the FBI’s Delaware Violent Crimes Task Force to find and detain Ross on Oct. 5, Blackwood said. The task force, once it confirmed Ross’s location, had to get a search warrant to apprehend him, he said.

Ross was returned to North Carolina eight days later, where he was placed in a secure juvenile detention facility. Ross is being held without bail and could face life in prison if convicted. Suspects under 18 cannot get the death penalty in North Carolina.

Officials have theories about a motive, Stemper said, but cannot definitively say why Ross targeted Clark and Woods.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever know (motive) in this case,” Stemper said.

Authorities also would not say whether Ross knew Woods, who was a freshman at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough, or Clark, a senior at Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane.

However, an online search showed both Clark and Ross had SoundCloud online music forum pages, where they posted their own songs and songs by others they admired.

A spokesperson for the Alamance-Burlington School System confirmed in an email to The News & Observer that Ross was a student at Eastern Alamance High School. Ross was enrolled from Aug. 29 to Sept. 3, the spokesperson said.

Name could not be released

Orange County Sheriff’s Office investigators quickly identified a suspect in the case but were not able to release his identity to the public until Monday because he is a juvenile.

State law requires prosecutors to charge suspects under age 18 in the juvenile court system, which limits what information can be released. The juvenile can be moved to adult court after a hearing in front of a judge or a grand jury indictment.

A grand jury is composed of 18 citizens who serve for six to 12 months, depending on the county. The grand jury hears evidence that has been collected against a defendant and determines whether there is enough probable cause to charge the person with the crime.

Orange County’s grand jury met last week and found enough evidence to formally charge Ross as an adult with murder.

The jury found that Ross “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did of malice aforethought kill and murder” Clark and Woods, court documents show.Ross’s attorneys did not challenge his transfer to adult court.

His next appearance in court is scheduled for Nov. 15.

Stemper said the sheriff’s office has concluded its investigation, and the case is now in the hands of the district attorney’s office. However, when asked if additional arrests are possible, Blackwood said he didn’t “want to speculate on that right now.”

‘Never hurt anybody’

Clark’s mother, Tiffany Concepcion, told WTVD-Channel 11 in September that she is seeking answers.

“He never hurt anybody, so for him to get done like this is — I have to have answers,” Concepcion said. “I want to get justice and I don’t care where I have to go, what I have to do, who I’ve got to talk to, I’m going to keep going and keep doing it.”

Clark’s father Dexter Clark, reached by The N&O, declined to comment.

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