Michelle Haggadone's children speak out 14 years after their mother's murder

Michelle Haggadone
Michelle Haggadone

WILMINGTON, NC (WIS) - For more than a decade, she was known as the "I-20 Girl." A woman murdered, then dumped off Interstate 20 in Darlington County.

Sunday marked 14 years since the body of 32-year-old Michelle Haggadone was found and still no one has been charged with killing her, even though in 2011 investigators named a man who they say did it.

Haggadone's family says the mother of two led a risky lifestyle before she was killed since she worked at truck stops as a drug-addicted prostitute. That's one reason the family says from the start investigators never took this case seriously, and more than a decade later, no one has been brought to justice for her death.

The good, the bad

Memories of their mother haven't faded, even though they were just 4 and 10 when she disappeared.

"She was tall and skinny, had long nails. That was a big deal because that's what I was kinda like, tall and skinny," said Gabrielle Wilson, Haggadone's daughter.

Skyler Applegate's knowledge of his mother is based only on what others tell him.

"They say my mom was good, then they turn around and say my mom wasn't the best person or a good choice maker," Skyler, Haggadone's son, said. "And I mean, I have nothing to go off of."

It's those bad decisions her family continues to struggle with.

"She would buy the special milk for the kids with food stamps or whatever, and she would take it back later to get cash," said Cathleen Applegate, Haggadone's mother. "I knew then and there she would never change."

Haggadone's mother tells WIS that her daughter lost custody of her children and started working as a prostitute to feed her drug habit.

"I guess I wish I had known because I would've physically taken her into a rehab and signed her in," Cathleen said.

Wilson remembers one of the last times she saw her mother.

"She was just walking to town," Wilson said. "She didn't have a car anymore, so she would walk everywhere. I remember exactly, she was drinking a soda on her tippy toes. She was wearing her white Keds shoes and her skinny jeans."

No charges

Haggadone's body was discovered Aug. 3, 2000. She was strangled and dumped behind the rest area off of I-20. Her identity would remain unknown to investigators for more than a decade.

"I just got that gut feeling," Cathleen said. "My friends would say, 'Have you heard from her?' A few months later, 'Have you heard from her?' Then they just quit asking."

Investigators were finally able to get a positive ID on the body in 2011 and a suspect was named. But this spring, a WIS investigation uncovered that the man authorities named as her killer in 2011 was never charged.

"It's like, 'Why bother? She's dead. She was a drug addict. Why bother?'" Cathleen said. "I want to know what's taken so long. What are you hiding from me? What's going on?"

It's unclear now whether anyone will be brought to justice in the case. Despite the darkness in their childhood, her children will never forget their mother.

"She had focus. She did want a home. She did," Wilson said. "I know that for a fact because I remember living in it. It was only an itty bitty trailer, but addiction got the best of her. She lost respect for herself, and it led her to a bad person."

In 2011, the Darlington County Sheriff's Office announced suspected serial killer and long-haul truck driver John Wayne Boyer, but Boyer was never charged for Haggadone's murder.

Boyer is serving a 12-year prison sentence for a murder in North Carolina. He's also been indicted for murder in a separate case in Tennessee.

Fourth Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers is currently reviewing the evidence in Haggadone's case.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.