SPRING LAKE, N.C. – The family of a 17-year-old boy whose slain body was found dumped in the woods near his home is searching for answers after a pair of soldiers at nearby Fort Bragg was charged with murder.
Army Pvt. Sebastian Gamez, 20, of Hidalgo, Texas, and Spc. Christopher Blackett, 20, of Vista, Calif., were each charged with first-degree murder and disposing of a corpse, the Harnett County Sheriff's Office said.
Sheriff's officials have released no information about how Vincent Carlisle Jr. died or a possible motive for his killing.
Both men lived at the same Spring Lake house and were being held without bond at the county's jail, the sheriff's office said. Spring Lake is a town of about 8,000 residents less than a mile from an entrance gate at Fort Bragg.
Both paratroopers worked as truck drivers and are members of Alpha Company, 82nd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne spokesman Staff Sgt. Andrew Alfano said. They both enlisted in 2009 and had been stationed at Fort Bragg since 2010. Neither has been deployed to a war zone.
Carlisle's body was found Thursday afternoon, almost four days after he left his home Sunday night, family members said. Blackett and Gamez had moved in next door about six months ago.
"Vincent was a good kid: happy, jolly," said Pamela Marks, a family friend visiting with Carlisle's grief-stricken relatives. "It's just senseless."
Shawn Chavis, a cousin of Carlisle's, said the family was at a loss to explain what had happened, and that no one knew of any disagreement or bad blood between the teenager and his neighbors.
"He went missing Sunday and on Monday, they (the soldiers) waved to them like nothing had happened," Chavis said of the family.
Located in a quiet cul-de-sac off busy Bragg Boulevard, Carlisle's home stands about 20 feet from where the soldiers were living. A basketball hoop stands in Carlisle's back yard, testament to his dreams of playing for the University of North Carolina one day.
The neighborhood is full of rental properties, and it's common for people to come and go, neighbors said.
No one who answered the door at the soldiers' home, which had a large "Beware of Dog" sign in the front.
Carlisle had attended Overhills High School in Spring Lake but transferred to a school about 30 miles north because he wanted to break out of a social circle that didn't value education, said Melanie Stewart, principal of Johnathan's House Christian School in Fuquay-Varina. Carlisle was entering his senior year of school, and was planning to tour the UNC campus in Chapel Hill this week, Stewart told The Associated Press.
"He was trying to change," Stewart said. "He said, 'I want to show my mom. I want to show everyone I can do this.'"
Carlisle had poor grades upon entering her school, but Stewart said he rapidly improved. She plans to present his family with a posthumously-awarded diploma and graduation cap and gown.
"I've been doing this for 22 years and I've never lost a student," Stewart said. "Every day when he'd leave me, he'd go back into that neighborhood. It was the neighborhood that got him."
Associated Press writers Tom Breen and Emery P. Dalesio contributed to this story from Raleigh.