Family of missing North Carolina man found dead outraged at how Person County Sheriff’s Office handled case

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The relatives of 37-year-old Roger Hamlett, who disappeared on December 30, 2023, are expressing their anger towards the Person County Sheriff’s Office for what they perceive as differential treatment compared to Justina Lask, a white woman.

On Friday, December 29, 2023, Roger Hamlett made the journey from Durham, North Carolina to Roxboro, North Carolina to celebrate the holidays with his family, according to his sister Kelly Smith.

Roger Hamlett
Roger Hamlett

Kelly recalls that Roger was at their mother’s house in Roxboro. The next morning, Saturday, December 30, their other sister saw Roger on ring doorbell footage walking away. Unfortunately, due to the motion turning off, she was unable to determine which direction he went.

“We didn’t have any direction he went in because the ring camera cut off,” Kelly explained.

Kelly told The North Carolina Beat that on Sunday, December 31, her sister called her and informed her that it had been 24 hours since Roger was last seen. Kelly said she drove to Roxboro on January 2 because she had been trying to contact local news outlets to help share her brother’s story with the public, but they ignored her.

“We was trying to get the news stations to help us post the story because the police station hadn’t done anything,” Kelly said. “My sister reported my brother missing on Sunday, December 31, but the 30th was the last time he was seen.”

Family says the Person County Sheriff’s Office did nothing to help find Roger Hamlett

Once Kelly arrived in Roxboro, she drove to the Person County Sheriff’s Office to request a copy of the missing persons report. However, she was informed that the detective on duty, Kevin Morris, was in court and she would have to wait for him to obtain the report.

She left her contact information with the office, hoping that the detective would reach out to her once he was available. As she was leaving, and arrived at her sister’s house, she said her sister had received a tip from someone claiming to have seen a person matching Roger’s description in their neighborhood around the time of his disappearance on Saturday morning.

“We went over to this person’s house who was a white guy and he told us what my brother had on and everything,” Kelly said. “We never even told him and when my sister showed him my brother’s picture, he confirmed that was who he saw.”

Kelly said the man told them that her brother was banging on people’s doors, indicating that he may have been under the influence of something and was in an uproar. She said the man had initially stated that he wasn’t going to open his door. However, after he went to put on pants and returned, he saw Roger running towards the woods.

“At that point, me, my sister, her boyfriend, and the white guy walked us out to the woods…it wasn’t far,” Kelly said. “We seen the footprints where he kind of jumped in the mud, stepped on the rock, and crossed the creek.”

At that moment, Kelly said they dialed 911. She said a few officers, along with Detective Kevin Morris, came out – whom the family had not previously met. She said Morris was standoffish for about 15 minutes with his arms crossed before he introduced himself to them.

“He told us that since it was 400 acres out there, they wanted to go get a K-9 drug dog to come search,” Kelly said. “When we asked why they was bringing out a drug dog they told us it was cross trained and it do both.”

Three law enforcement officers searched the woods with a drug dog and later returned to inform the family that, because it had been more than 72 hours and they couldn’t pick up a scent for Roger, said Kelly.

“We asked if we can go get a piece of clothing of my brother and they was like ‘no, no it don’t matter because the scent is gone,’ ” Kelly said.

The Person County Sheriff’s Office informed the family that they would deploy a drone because they lacked the manpower for a ground search. An hour later, Kelly said the drones had returned, but she felt they were just playing with them and not actively searching for her brother.

“To me, when they came back with the drones, in my opinion, I feel like they was just playing with drones,” Kelly said. “I don’t feel like they were looking for him.”

In the woods where Roger was discovered on January 26, the family says that the Person County Sheriff’s Office had previously searched with drug dogs and drones. According to Kelly, an unidentified officer informed her sister that the drone wouldn’t have been able to detect Roger in the manner he was found.

Before Roger’s discovery, Kelly mentioned that the situation had escalated to the point where a member of the New Black Panther Party, who knew her brother, offered a*sistance to the family. The family accepted, and it was then that the Person County Sheriff’s Office claimed to have sufficient manpower to conduct a search.

However, prior to the involvement of the New Black Panther Party, a white woman named Justina Lask went missing on January 23, 2024, and the Person County Sheriff’s Office issued her missing report on the same day.

Justin Lask
Justin Lask

Although Lask was found, Roger’s family expressed to The North Carolina Beat that they believe Roger was not treated fairly and possibly could have been found alive had Person County Sheriff’s Office posted about his disappearance sooner and allocated resources to his case as they did for Lask.

Roger Hamlett
Roger Hamlett

In contrast, Roger Hamlett, who was last seen on December 30, 2023, had his missing report posted by the Person County Sheriff’s Office on January 3, 2024, four days after he went missing.

Upon learning of this discrepancy, local residents reached out to the family, prompting the New Black Panther Party to offer their support.

“Once the white lady went missing and people started seeing she was posted on the same day, that’s when people started talking about the situation, Said Roger’s neice, Ashiya Ramsey.

The Person County Sheriff’s Office reported that Roger was discovered Friday, in the wooded area near Lawrence Street and Roxboro Fuel Time in Roxboro. 



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