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Person of interest named in Travis Lynch's disappearance

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BAILEY — A locked up drug ringleader is the main person of interest in the disappearance of a Wilson man more than a decade ago.

Travis Lamont Lynch, 21, vanished on Christmas Eve 2003. He was last seen alive with his girlfriend, Carlisha Whitley. She lived on Claude Lewis Road near Middlesex at the time.

Carlisha Whitley’s uncle, Sean Fontae Whitley, lived in a mobile home on Stoney Hill Church Road outside Bailey at that time. The mobile home burned down in a suspicious fire four months after Travis went missing.

Sean Whitely is serving time in a federal prison on drug charges.

“We were already investigating Sean Whitley when Travis Lynch disappeared, that stepped up our efforts,” said Maj. Miste Strickland of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Keith Stone on Friday confirmed Whitley is a person of interest in Travis’ disappearance.

A two-year investigation resulted in the 2005 convictions of several people, including Whitley, who authorities singled out as the leader of the drug gang, according to archived news reports.

Whitey was arrested in New York in 2004. He pleaded guilty to federal drug violations. Now 46, Whitley is housed at Butner Correctional Institution in Granville County. He’s due to be released in August 2021, according to information from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Whitley’s former wife, Mable Lorraine Harris, 30 at the time, pleaded guilty as well. Whitley’s cousin Ron Christopher Whitley, 33 at the time, was sentenced to five years in prison.

Before being caught, the gang moved a lot of crack cocaine through Nash County. They were found in possession of at least four kilograms of the highly addictive substance, according to court records.

Authorities seized eight firearms as part of the mission to topple the drug outfit. Codenamed Operation Nash-Guard, the campaign united Nash County deputies with officials in Johnston and Halifax counties as well as the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Scott Parker, the deputy who spearheaded the Whitley gang investigation, was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010 to serve as the U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of North Carolina. He’s now deputy commissioner of the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.

Parker said last week that he couldn’t recall whether Whitley used the Twilight Zone to conduct illicit business, but the now-shuttered nightclub was well known as a hangout for local criminals.

At the time of Travis’ disappearance, Sean Whitley lived a stone’s throw from the nightclub, which was the last place Travis was seen alive by anyone outside the Whitely family.

Anyone with information about Travis’ disappearance is asked to call Strickland at 252-532-4574. A reward of up to $20,000 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest.

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