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A 911 Call, A Chase And A Crash Led To Charlotte Girl Kidnapped After Double Homicide

Charlotte police investigate a double homicide Sunday in the 7500 block of Glencannon Drive.
Diedra Laird
Charlotte Observer
Charlotte police investigate a double homicide Sunday in the 7500 block of Glencannon Drive.

The bizarre double murder and kidnapping case that evolved Sunday in Charlotte is apparently just the latest in a series of tragedies to befall 11-year-old Arieyana Simone Forney

Friends of her murdered grandparents, Curtis and Ruby Atkinson, say the couple took in the girl after her father, Micah Atkinson, was murdered in 2013 in Charlotte.

Micah Atkinson is the dead couple’s son, friends say, and he is the brother of the man now suspected in the killing of Curtis, 63, and Ruby Atkinson, 62, on Sunday.

Curtis Atkinson Jr., 36, is believed to have kidnapping of Arieyana, his niece, after the double murder Sunday morning.

Arieyana was found late Sunday by police in Washington DC, after the car she was in crashed during a chase. Curtis Atkinson Jr. was the driver, authorities say. He is being held in Washington DC on local charges.

On Monday, friends of Curtis and Ruby Atkinson were describing them as “good people” who cared for disabled friends in nearby homes and visited ailing neighbors when they were in the hospital. The couple doted over Arieyana’s every need, friends say.

“When Arieyana got into volleyball, Curtis (Sr.) put a volleyball court in the front yard and had all the kids in the neighborhood come over and play,” said one neighbor, who asked not to be identified. “And when she got into basketball, he put up a basketball goal on the driveway. Whatever she wanted, he was there to make sure she survived and thrived beyond the death of her father. They were wonderful grandparents.”

The New York Daily News reported Monday morning that Curtis Atkinson Jr. was taken into custody after he crashed into another vehicle during a brief police chase on Independence Avenue SW, along the Tidal Basin. There were no serious injuries in the crash, which began about 8:30 p.m., reported Washington DC area media.

A third person in the vehicle was identified by as Nikkia Cooper, 26. Cooper was arrested on drug charges, and police are investigating any role she might have had in the kidnapping and murders in Charlotte, CBS News reported. Court records indicate the Curtis Atkinson Jr. and Cooper had been sharing a home in the past year, and were evicted the first week of March.

Arieyana Simone Forney
Arieyana Simone Forney

Arieyana was taken to a Washington area hospital after the crash and appeared to be uninjured, it was reported.

Charlotte officials have said the chase in Washington happened after a female inside that car called police at about 8 p.m., saying she had been kidnapped. She was able to provide her approximate location to the dispatcher and police quickly began searching for the 2005 white Chevrolet Impala. Authorities have not confirmed the caller was Arieyana.

CMPD detectives are working closely with the FBI, the SBI, the Washington, D.C., Police Department and the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the case.

Curtis and Ruby Atkinson were found dead at 11:05 a.m. Sunday, when Charlotte-Mecklenburg police were called to assist the Charlotte Fire Department with a house fire in the 7500 block of Glencannon Drive. Observer news partner WBTV reported there was a shooting at the home and that there was an attempted arson at the crime scene.

Police said initial information indicated that a white 2005 Chevrolet Impala left the scene just before firefighters arrived. Detectives began canvassing the area for potential witnesses, and then issued an Amber Alert requesting help finding Arieyana and the car.

Court records indicate Curtis Atkinson Jr. claimed the home as his address as far back as 2007.

Curtis Atkinson Jr. has a lengthy arrest record, including charges for drug dealing, assault, and possession of a firearm by a felon. Records show he was found guilty of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, assault and battery, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of stolen goods, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute and second degree trespassing.

He served 11 months in prison and got out in 2011, records show.

“I'm not surprised at all this,” said one neighbor, who described Curtis and Ruby Atkinson as family friends. “He (Curtis Jr.) was always more of the troubled son, and in and out of trouble. So this wasn’t a shock, honestly.”

Another neighbor suggested there were troubles in the home, noting that Curtis Atkinson Jr. was “not allowed to have a key to the house.”

“He wasn’t supposed to be there,” said the long-time neighbor, who lives three doors down from the Atkinson home.

Nina Atkinson, the sister of Curtis Atkinson Sr., says the couple took in Arieyana because it was believed they could help her get a better education, including a period where they home schooled her. Both Curtis Sr. and Ruby Atkinson had college degrees and successful careers, Nina Atkinson said.

He was a graduate of Appalachian State and worked in internet technology before retiring, and Ruby Atkinson was a realtor who worked under contract with some of the city’s big banks, Nina Atkinson said.

The two met and began dating as honor students in an elementary school in their hometown of Princeton, North Carolina, she said.

“Ruby was still furthering her education, getting a doctorate,” said Nina Atkinson. “Curtis loved working with his hands, so he was doing that. He’s had such a great sense of humor. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house once he got started.”

She does not believe Curtis Atkinson Jr. was living with the couple in recent weeks, although it was known he was facing an eviction. “I was told that he was afraid of being homeless and they (Curtis Sr. and Ruby) had been talking to him about saving up some money to get a place,” she said.

Records show Arieyana’s father Micah Christopher Atkinson​ died at the Kimmerly Glen Apartments on Endolwood Drive in Charlotte on Nov. 25, 2013. Police say they were called to the apartment about an assault with a deadly weapon and found two victims suffering from serious life threatening gunshot wounds.

Both victims were transported to Carolinas Medical Center and Atkinson was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Curtis Atkinson Jr. was interviewed by WSOC after his brother’s death said the family was heartbroken: “He got a daughter,” Atkinson told the station. “She had to see her daddy get buried on her birthday and it's killing me. That was my younger brother, we were like this.”

Curtis Atkinson Jr. told WSOC he wanted closure in the murder: “I want justice for my brother.”

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a Homicide Unit detective. The public can also call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 or visit the Crime Stoppers mobile app website at http://charlottecrimestoppers.com/.

Violent crime in Charlotte was up just over 10 percent in 2016, including more homicides and aggravated assaults, based on a report issued in January by CMPD.

Homicides last year increased 16.7 percent to 68, including three children. The city is on pace to eclipse that number in 2017.

Maria David contributed