Durham police identified similarities Tuesday between two recent murders and are investigating possible connections between both victims.
"We have not drawn a link, but we have discovered some similarities," said Lt. Ed Sarvis, spokesman for the Durham Police Department. "Both victims were roughly the same age, both the same race, both are known homosexuals, and both frequented chat rooms on the Internet."
As the investigation progresses, officials are warning local Internet chat room users to exercise extra caution online.
The two victims, Michael Robert Neice, 30, and John Randall Cash, 31, were both residents of Durham.
According to reports, Neice's body was discovered Sept. 24 at 6205 Farrington Rd., Apt E-13, in Durham at 12:14 a.m.
Reports state that the apparent cause of death was stab wounds and that there was no sign of forced entry.
Reports state that Cash's body was discovered at 4:45 p.m. Sunday in his apartment at 4900 North Roxboro Road in Durham. According to reports, the cause of death is undetermined, but the death is being investigated as a homicide.
Although police have not yet drawn a direct connection between the murders and the gay community or Internet chat rooms, members of UNC's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are concerned about possible threats to LGBT individuals in Chapel Hill.
Glenn Grossman, president of the Carolina Alternative Meetings of Professional and Graduate Students, said he is concerned about possible threats to UNC students who use chat rooms to meet other LGBT students.
He said the Internet is particularly important for LGBT students because they often have trouble meeting each other. "It is important to remember what the Internet means to the gay population," Grossman said. "There are no other safe opportunities that are institutionalized, and gay students have the need to socialize."
Grossman said he has been speaking with Melinda Manning, assistant dean of students, and with Department of Public Safety officials to develop strategies for warning LGBT students about the possible risks associated with using chat rooms.
Grossman also said he is organizing a meeting tonight for all campus LGBT groups to come together and discuss the potential danger.
Manning said she hopes to warn all students -- not just those in the LGBT community -- of the proper precautions to take when meeting someone in person after having an Internet conversation. "I'm not saying that students should not talk in chat rooms, but if they decide to meet someone they talked to on the Internet, they should meet in a public place," she said.
Sarvis also stressed caution when meeting someone from a chat room for the first time.
"One of the big pieces of advice we give is to realize you don't really know anything about the person -- it's just someone you have had a typed conversation with," he said.
"You never know who you're dealing with."
Paige Ammons and Rachel Clarke contributed to this story.
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