The possible DNA match of a convicted killer to the deaths of several area women nearly two decades ago is heating up at least three cold cases in southeastern North Carolina.
Matthew Lorne Alder, 42, is serving a life sentence in a Michigan prison. He has been behind bars since 1995 when a jury convicted him of murdering a 19-year-old woman whom he had raped and set on fire in 1994. He is also awaiting trial in a neighboring town, accused of beating a woman to death in 1993.
Thanks to new evidence, federal, state and local authorities are trying to determine whether Alder also left a trail of bodies across Craven and Onslow counties in the early 1990s. Alder was a Marine stationed in the area at the time of several deaths they are investigating, officials said.
Havelock Police Chief Wayne Cyrus confirmed Tuesday that his department has re-opened the 1992 homicide investigation of 25-year-old Camille Marie Whalen. Known to her friends as “Cami,” the mother of three was hitchhiking in Havelock when she was picked up, strangled and stabbed to death. Her body was dumped at a secluded baseball park.
Havelock police received information in January from investigators in Genesee Township, Mich., indicating Alder’s possible involvement in the crimes in Jacksonville and Havelock, particularly Whalen’s homicide that remains unsolved.
“The investigation went cold after Havelock investigators were not able to develop information from the few leads available at the time,” Cyrus said in a press release.
Since January, Havelock detectives have been interviewing possible witnesses in and out of state to determine the veracity of the information. Investigators have also received letters that they have been reviewing, Cyrus said.
Jacksonville detectives are investigating whether Alder was involved in the death of an unidentified woman whose skeleton was found in a wooded area off Marine Boulevard in 1995. Medical examiners believe the woman died around 1992.
Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said Tuesday his detectives are gathering evidence in a possibly related cold case. He would not elaborate, citing an ongoing investigation.
Investigators from Havelock, Jacksonville and Onslow County met with Craven County District Attorney Scott Thomas and Onslow County District Attorney Ernie Lee on Monday.
The chief prosecutors determined additional interviews and further investigation are required before any possible charges can be filed.
A possible break in the case may be DNA evidence, which has been submitted to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation laboratory in Raleigh, Cyrus said.
“Investigators and prosecutors are awaiting those lab results,” Cyrus said.
It was 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 27, 1992, when Havelock Public Safety Officer Buddy Clements was on routine patrol and discovered the body of a nude, bound, and gagged woman laying in the open against the cinder block wall of a concession stand at a baseball field. The grisly scene was just 100 yards from Havelock Elementary School and less than four blocks from the city’s public safety department.
Investigators at the time said significant evidence was recovered at the scene, but they came to the conclusion that Whalen was not killed in Havelock but elsewhere, and her body had been dumped at the baseball field.
Authorities said at the time that they were looking for a late model, dark blue Ford Mustang with three antennas that may have been in the area where the young woman’s body was found. Three men, all white and in their 20s, were believed to be in the vehicle.
Described as a drifter by authorities in 1992, Whalen had been seen the night before her death hitchhiking near Temples Point Road and N.C. 101.
According to Havelock News file stories on the case, Whalen grew up in Ohio and was just 3 1/2 years old when her mother died in a motorcycle crash. She later moved to Germany to live with a sister who was serving in the military and then relocated to the Swansboro and Cedar Point areas of Carteret County.
Whalen’s three children were 7 years, 4 years and 8 months old at the time of her death.
After a memorial service in North Carolina, Whalen’s ashes were sent to Ohio where she was buried next to her mother.
Patricia O’Brien told the Havelock News in an 1992 story that she had raised Whalen after Whalen’s mother had died. O’Brien said that Whalen had quit high school but was pursing a GED while working as a waitress.
“She just wanted to be married, have a big wedding, a big family and live happily ever after,” O’Brien told the paper.
Crime Stoppers of Onslow County is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest in the local crimes. Craven County Crime Stoppers is offering an award of up to $1,000.
Anyone with information about any of the unsolved crimes can contact the Havelock Police Department at 447-3212; Craven County Crime Stoppers at 252-633-5141; the Jacksonville/Onslow Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273; the Jacksonville Police Department at 910-455-1472; or the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office at 910-455-3113.
Havelock News reporter Drew C. Wilson contributed to this story.