06/24/09 — Sheriff's Office still searching for Club Exscape murder suspect

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Sheriff's Office still searching for Club Exscape murder suspect

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 24, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Witnesses have not been cooperative in the murder of Kendra Nyetta "Lil Buna" Smalls, killed in a shoot-out at an illegally-operating club, authorities say.

Wayne County Sheriff's Office detectives said they do not have enough evidence to pursue charges that "Club Exscape" was selling alcohol illegally.

However, the owner of the club now faces financial fraud charges, including two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.

Kelvin Latrell Rivers, 29, of East Kornegay Street, Mount Olive, was jailed under a $100,000 bond in late May for the alleged offenses.

Rivers was the owner-operator of Club Exscape, which had only been operating for a few days on N.C. 55 before the murder of Ms. Smalls, authorities have said.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Office is still searching for a suspect in the shooting that killed Ms. Smalls on May 4.

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said that the Sheriff's Office would offer $1,000 over what the Crime Stoppers hotline would pay for any information leading to the arrest of Ms. Smalls' alleged killer.

Wayne County Sheriff's Office Detective Tom Flores said Rivers will now been charged in three separate financial crimes.

The most recent, reported by Preston Grantham, was that Rivers had written three bad checks in the amount of $400 each.

Grantham was asked to pressure-clean the building where "Club Exscape" was housed, the detective said.

Authorities said they would pursue warrants for the bad checks allegedly written for pressure washing.

Previously, Rivers had been charged in two other instances for passing bad checks.

The Sheriff's Office alleges that Wadsworth Electric and Bright Ideas of Goldsboro were victims of bad checks written by the former club operator.

Ken Wadsworth reported that in April, Rivers wrote him a check for $2,900 for materials and labor to start the N.C. 55 club.

When Wadsworth attempted to cash the check, he was told that a "stop payment" had been ordered on the check.

Then, Stephen Rhodes and Andy Mitchell of Bright Ideas of Goldsboro reported that Rivers had also written them a check, for $617.19, in an order for special lighting and fixtures, authorities said.

Rivers told a bank teller that his check book had been stolen, according to authorities.

Ms. Smalls, whose nickname "Lil Buna" was a rap music persona, was a Florence, S.C. native.

Sheriff's Office Capt. Tom Effler said that it was not clear what exactly happened when Ms. Smalls was shot leaving the club.

"It had only been open five days -- it was not a licensed club," Effler said. "We were told that night it was a private party."