North Carolina

Victims of the State

34 Cases

Map of Counties

U.S. Cases


County:   Alamance   Bertie   Brunswick   Buncombe   Caldwell   Catawba   Chowan

Columbus   Cumberland   Duplin   Forsyth   Guilford   Iredell   Johnston   Lee   Mecklenburg

Moore   New Hanover   Onslow   Richmond   Robeson   Union   Wayne   Wilkes   Wilson




Date of Alleged Crime


Alamance County, NC Ronald Cotton July 28, 1984 (Burlington)

Ronald Cotton was convicted of raping Jennifer Thompson in 1985.  The crime occurred in Thompson's apartment in Burlington, NC.  The rape was almost identical to another rape committed immediately after Thompson's rape, but the other victim, Elizabeth Watson, had picked a different man out of a police lineup.  Cotton was also excluded as the source of blood found on the door through which Watson's assailant entered.  Later, the NC Supreme Court overturned Cotton's conviction because the trial judge refused to allow exculpatory evidence from the Watson rape. 

While serving time in Central Prison, Cotton happened to meet a new inmate, Bobby Poole, who closely resembled a composite drawing that Thompson had made of her assailant.  Poole also happened to be from Burlington and was serving time for rape.  Cotton confronted Poole about the Thompson and Watson rapes, but Poole denied he was the assailant.  However, another inmate soon reported that Poole had confessed to both rapes.  Both Cotton and Poole worked in the prison kitchen and looked so similar that people there were mistaking the two by calling Cotton, "Poole."

In 1987, Cotton was retried for raping Thompson and tried the first time for raping Watson.  Watson had belatedly decided that Cotton was her assailant.  At the retrial, the judge refused to allow evidence that an inmate had heard Poole confess to the rapes.  Poole's blood type matched the blood spot found in Watson's case, but when Poole was called as a witness, he denied both rapes.  Thompson also told the jury, “Bobby Poole didn't rape me. Ronald Cotton did.”

Cotton was convicted of both rapes, but in 1995, DNA tests showed that Poole had committed the Thompson rape.  The biological material preserved from the Watson rape was too degraded to test.  However, under questioning, Poole confessed to both rapes.  The NC Governor subsequently pardoned Cotton.  Cotton and Thompson have since become friends.  The two appeared on a 60 Minutes episode about the case and on a consecutive episode about the fallibility of eyewitness identification.  They also have jointly authored a book entitled Picking Cotton.  (60 Minutes) (Frontline) (CWC) (IP) (CBJ)  [3/09]


Bertie County, NC Alan Gell Apr 1995 (Aulander)
James Alan Gell was convicted in 1998 of the robbery and murder of Allen Ray Jenkins, a 56-year-old retired truck driver.  Gell was sentenced to death.  The prosecution argued that the murder occurred around April 3 when other evidence indicated that it occurred closer to April 14, when Gell was out of state.  Two girls, Crystal Morris, 15, and Shanna Hall, 16, were the state's only witnesses against Gell.  The prosecution concealed witness statements of 17 people who saw the victim alive days after the only day Gell could have committed the murder.  In addition, the prosecution withheld an audiotape of one of its witnesses, saying she had to "make up a story."  On retrial in 2004, a jury acquitted Gell of all charges.  (CNO) (RCNH) (RCNH #2)  [9/05]


Brunswick County, NC Sylvester Smith Mar 1984
Sylvester Smith was convicted of raping Gloria Ogundeji and Janell Smith, ages four and five.  The victims were the daughter and niece of the woman with whom Smith had been staying.  The conviction was based on the testimony of the girls.  In 2004, the girls came forward and revealed that their grandmother, Fannie Mae Davis, had pressured them into accusing Smith in order to protect the actual perpetrator, their 9-year-old cousin.  Smith was released, but in 2005, Gov. Mike Easley had the opportunity to pardon Smith, but refused to.  In 1984, he was the District Attorney who prosecuted Smith, and apparently, it is hard for him to admit that he made a mistake.


Buncombe County, NC Gus Colin Langley Sept 27, 1932 (Asheville)

Gus Colin Langley was convicted of murdering Lonnie G. Russell during an Asheville gas station holdup.  Witnesses reported that the day before the murder they had seen a car with a New Jersey license plate at the gas station.  Five days later police located a car with a New Jersey plate in Wilmington, NC, 320 miles away.  It was driven by Langley, who, although a native of Wilmington, had worked as a house painter in Jersey City, NJ.  Police could not locate any other car with a New Jersey plate in the whole of North Carolina on the day of the murder.

Aside from his license plate, there was no physical evidence against Langley.  The prosecution's case relied on informant testimony.  Langley had alibi witnesses who could verify that his car could not have been in Asheville the day before the murder, and other witnesses who could verify that he was far from Asheville on the day of the murder.  Langley wrote letters to these witnesses, but the letters went unanswered.  Later investigation revealed that the witnesses never received his letters.  It seems doubtful that his jailers ever mailed them.  Langley's execution was stopped 25 minutes before its scheduled time because of a technicality in the judge's order.  Langley was cleared in 1936 after it was proven that he was 400 miles away from the location of the murder on the day it occurred.  (ISI)  [5/08]


Caldwell County, NC Kendall & Vickers Sept 25, 1906

Hamp Kendall and John Vickers were convicted of the murder of Lawrence Nelson, 25.  Nelson disappeared from his rooming house in Lenoir and was found dead 10 weeks later.  Kendall was Nelson's roommate and Vickers was Kendall's close friend.  Both men had not gone to work on the day that Nelson disappeared.  At trial, 15-year-old Omey Greer (aka Omah Grier) testified that the defendants had given her money to lure Nelson to a location in the mountains that was four to five miles from Lenoir.  After luring Nelson, Greer said she ran away, but heard a shot fired.

Following the convictions, police arrested Sam Green and his cousin Omey Greer for the murders.  Both were acquitted by a jury at trial.  In 1916 an investigation conducted by Governor Bickett found that despite his acquittal, Green had murdered Nelson and framed Kendall and Vickers.  The Governor issued an unconditional pardon to the two men.  Five years later, Green had a coffin built for himself.  When it was done, he confessed he had murdered Nelson and then committed suicide.

Three decades after his pardon, Kendall complained in a letter to the state governor that he was being slandered by Nelson's tombstone in Lenoir cemetery which stated Nelson "was murdered and robbed by Hamp Kendall and John Vickers on September 25, 1906."  The governor referred the matter to the Caldwell County board of commissioners, but they were unable to take action as state law made it a misdemeanor to molest a tombstone.  However, in 1949, as a favor to Kendall, the state general assembly passed a law making it illegal to erect or maintain a tombstone which charges anyone with a crime.  Nelson's tombstone was subsequently torn down.  (Google) (The Innocents)  [7/09]


Catawba County, NC Glen Chapman Aug 1992 (Hickory)

Glen (aka Glenn) Edward Chapman was sentenced to death for the murders of Betty Jean Ramseur, 31, and Tenene Yvette Conley, 28.  The bodies of both victims were found in abandoned houses within two blocks of each other in southeast Hickory.  DNA tests showed that Conley, a prostitute, had had sex with Chapman within days of her death.  A report by a forensic scientist later showed that Conley likely died of a drug overdose, rather than by foul play.  Three witnesses told jurors Chapman confessed to killing or talked about killing Ramseur. But two of those witnesses have since recanted, saying they lied because they were afraid of police and prosecutors. The third witness said she believes Chapman was joking when he told her he had killed Ramseur.  "If anyone asked me at trial, I would have testified that police pressured me into testifying and that I did not believe Edward killed anyone."

In Nov. 2007, a judge overturned Chapman's convictions.  The judge found that:  (1) The lead investigator, Detective Dennis Rhoney, withheld information that a key witness in the Ramseur murder identified someone other than Chapman.  (2) Rhoney did not reveal that a jail inmate was overheard admitting that he killed Ramseur.  (3) Detectives never reported that witnesses said Conley was seen alive with someone who had a history of violence against her in the days after prosecutors said she died.  (4) Rhoney lied during his trial testimony against Chapman.  (5) Chapman was inadequately defended by his court-appointed attorneys.  Chapman's appeals attorneys had argued that his trial attorneys, Thomas Portwood and Robert Adams, failed to interview several critical witnesses and were "excessive users of alcohol."

Chapman's trial also featured juror misconduct.  According to affidavits signed by two jurors, the jury discussed whether Chapman killed a 13-year-old Shelby girl whose body was found the same summer as Ramseur's and Conley's.  Chapman was never charged in the girl's slaying, nor was that slaying discussed in the trial. Also, one juror, Irene Freeman, slept through essential testimony until the judge ordered her to wake up. In April 2008 the state dropped charges against Chapman and he was released.  (DW) (News & Observer) (Google)  [6/08]


Chowan County, NC Little Rascals Day Care 1989
During winter 1988-89, Edenton police attended a Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) seminar.  Shortly thereafter accusations of mass child abuse began to surface involving the Little Rascals Day Care in Edenton.  More than 90 children accused 20 adults including the mayor and the sheriff with 429 instances of child sexual abuse.  Seven adults were eventually charged.  Charges were dropped against three.  Two were allowed to plead no contest.  Two, Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson, were found guilty of multiple charges of child sex abuse and given long sentences.  The convictions were overturned on appeal and new trials were ordered.  The cases were finally settled in 1999 when all charges were dropped against Kelley.  (Religious Tolerance)  [7/05]


Columbus County, NC Johnnie Beck Nov 24, 1995

Johnnie Beck, 18, used a hunting rifle to shoot twice into the chest of Jeffery Watts, 19, in the parking lot of a Whiteville Burger King.  Watts had just stabbed Johnnie's twin, Ronnie Beck, three times in the chest and once in the arm, just before turning on Johnnie and slicing off his left thumb.  Johnnie was charged with second-degree murder as the state argued that the second shot was premeditated murder, even though it was fired only one to two seconds after the first.  Watts happened to be a relative of state senator R.C. Soles.  There was a last minute change of judges before trial and the trial was marked by jury tampering.  The defense argued self-defense, but Beck was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to a minimum of 10 years imprisonment.

Beck was released in June 2006 after the charge was reduced to manslaughter and he was released with time served. Beck's father spent half-a-million dollars on lawyers and investigators before successfully having his son's murder conviction set-aside.  (Blue Line Radio)  [3/07]


Cumberland County, NC Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald Feb 17, 1970

(Federal Case)  Army Captain Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of the murder of his wife Collette, 26, and the murders of two daughters, Kimberly, 5, and Kristen, 2.  According to MacDonald, he and his family were attacked by intruders to their home at 544 Castle Drive in Fort Bragg, a U.S. military base.  MacDonald survived with wounds including a collapsed lung.  MacDonald was acquitted of the murders at a Ft. Bragg Army hearing and probably would not have been tried again had he not angered the prosecution by criticizing them during interviews on national TV.  MacDonald's Army acquittal meant that he could not be court-martialed, but he could still be tried in federal court and he was.  Before his federal trial MacDonald invited author Joe McGinniss on his defense team to write a book and hopefully help to establish his factual innocence.  At that trial MacDonald was unfortunately convicted.

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Cumberland County, NC Lee Wayne Hunt Mar 7, 1984 (Eastover)

Lee Wayne Hunt was convicted of the murders of Roland "Tadpole" Matthews Jr. and his wife, Lisa K. Matthews.  Both were shot execution-style, their throats slit, in their home on a dirt road near Fayetteville.  Prosecutors argued that the murders were punishment for an alleged theft of marijuana by Roland from Hunt's drug ring.  Hunt was an admitted marijuana dealer.  A codefendant, Jerry Dale Cashwell, was also convicted.

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Cumberland County, NC Timothy Hennis May 9, 1985
Timothy B. Hennis was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Kathryn Eastburn and the murder of her daughters, Kara, 5, and Erin, 3.  Hennis was an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg.  He had been given the Eastburn Family dog two days before the murder because the Eastburns were being transferred to England.  The authorities tested blood, semen and hair samples, but none of the tests matched Hennis.  The prosecution's case rested on two eyewitnesses who came forward well after the crime, one of whom dramatically altered a description of the perpetrator over time.  The prosecution also introduced nearly 100 photographs of the victims' bodies--an inflammatory tactic that led to reversal of the conviction.  Upon retrial in 1989, the flaws in the witnesses' testimony were exposed and the jury acquitted Hennis of all charges.  (PC) (ISI)  [7/05]


Duplin County, NC Jones & Lamb 1987

Levon "Bo" Jones and Larry Lamb were convicted of the murder of Leamon Grady.  Jones was sentenced to death while Lamb was sentenced to life imprisonment.  A federal judge overturned Jones's conviction in 2006, declaring that the defense provided by Jones's initial defense attorneys was so poor that they missed critical evidence pointing to his innocence. The sole witness accusing Jones of the murder, Lovely Lorden, later admitted in an affidavit that she "was certain that Bo did not have anything to do with Mr. Grady's murder" and that she did not know what happened the night Grady was murdered.  Jones's first trial lawyer never bothered to gather the many conflicting statements of Lorden, let alone do the kind of investigation necessary in a first degree murder case. It is possible Lorden would have admitted the truth earlier had the case been investigated and had she been adequately cross-examined.  In May 2008, the prosecution dropped charges against Jones, just days before his scheduled retrial.  Jones was released the next day.

Jones's codefendant, Larry Lamb, was also convicted due to the testimony of Lorden.  Lamb has always maintained his innocence and had turned down a plea offer of a six-year sentence.  Lamb plans to ask the newly formed North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission to review his case.  (ACLU)  [5/08]


Forsyth County, NC Darryl Hunt Aug 10, 1984
Darryl Hunt was twice convicted of murdering 25-year-old Deborah Sykes, first in 1985, then again or retrial in 1990.  A DNA test in 1994 excluded him as the murderer, but the prosecutor refused to take any action towards Hunt's release, claiming the test did not exclude him as having some role in the murder.  In 2003, Willard E. Brown confessed to being solely responsible for the murder, and Hunt was released on bond two days later.  In 2004, Hunt's conviction was vacated and he was awarded $358,545 from the state compensation fund.  In 2007, he was awarded an additional $1.65 million by the city of Winston-Salem.  (IP)


Forsyth County, NC Alfred Rivera Convicted 1997
Alfred Rivera (aka Alfredo) was convicted of murdering two drug dealers and sentenced to death.  The N.C. Supreme Court overturned his conviction because jurors had not been allowed to hear testimony that others who pleaded guilty to the murders may have framed Rivera.  Rivera was acquitted at retrial in 1999.  [9/05]


Guilford County, NC Emmanuel Brown Sep 13, 1990 (Greensboro)

(Federal Case)  About an hour after a Greensboro, NC bank was robbed of $371,000 by two black males, Charles Walker was arrested at a mall parking lot 2 1/2 miles away from the bank for driving a U-Haul truck without a driver's license.  The next day police decided to charge him with the robbery.  No evidence linked Walker to the crime other than he being a black male.  Walker had rented the U-Haul truck with Emmanuel Brown's stolen driver's license.  Two weeks later police and FBI arrested Brown in Philadelphia, PA for the robbery and searched his home.  They found $67,365.85 and seized it on suspicion that it was part of the robbery money.  Brown, however, co-owned two nightclubs and a restaurant that took in large amounts of cash.

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Iredell County, NC William Mason Wellman 1941
William Mason Wellman, a black man, was convicted of the rape of Cora Sowers, a 67-year-old white woman.  Wellman was sentenced to death.  After he was strapped into the electric chair, N.C. Governor Broughton halted his execution, as word came that another man confessed to the crime.  It was later established that Wellman was at work in Virginia, 350 miles away, at the time of the crime and had signed a payroll receipt on the day of the murder.  He was granted a full pardon and released.  (Google)  [4/08]


Johnston County, NC Terence Garner Aug 25, 1997
Terence Garner, a juvenile, was convicted of robbery and attempted murder (shooting a woman, Alice Wise, in the face).  Garner was arrested after an accomplice to the crime informed police that the shooter was named Terrance.  Garner did not look like the real perpetrator, but was identified anyway by Wise and her boss.  Two accomplices with plea deals testified that Garner was the shooter.  Later a third accomplice testified that they did not even know Garner.  Garner was cleared in 2002.  (NCAFJ) (Frontline) (American Justice) [5/05]


Lee County, NC Steve Snipes Feb 13, 1998

Steve E. Snipes was convicted of the armed robbery of Thomas Superette, a convenience store near Sanford.  After the robbery, two of the store clerks identified the robber as Steve Snipes, a neighborhood man and regular customer of the store.  The robber wore a ski mask, and the clerks were not even sure of his race.  They said the robber sounded like Snipes would have sounded if he had tried to change his voice.  They also said the robber's clothing looked like clothes Snipes sometimes wore.

Police arrested Snipes shortly afterwards.  They did not recover the stolen bank bag, money, weapon, or a jacket like the one the robber was wearing 15 minutes earlier.  Snipes also had an alibi.  However the clerks' testimony was sufficient to convict.  Snipes' trial attorney, Andre Barrett, was subsequently disbarred after allegations of misappropriating $800,000 in client funds.  The trial prosecutor, Bill Huggins, was accused of trying to get his girlfriend to kill his wife. A plea bargain sent him to prison for obstruction of justice and embezzlement.

Since Snipes' imprisonment,  a witness had come forward who testified that another man, Terrance Wyatt, was the robber.  Wyatt was caught committing an identical robbery while Snipes was in prison.  In 2007, after Snipes served over 5 years of imprisonment, NC Governor Easley pardoned him.  (News & Observer) (AP)  [4/08]


Lee County, NC Donald Edward Sweat Feb 23, 2007 (Sanford)

Donald Edward Sweat was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.  He was sentenced to 93 to 121 months of imprisonment.  Sweat's alleged victim, John Hunter, was assaulted between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. near his mailbox at the intersection of Cletus Hall and Buchanan Farm Roads in Sanford, NC.  The assailant struck John several times in the face, breaking a cheekbone and his jawbone.  John's brother, Joe Hunter, had driven John to the mailbox and told the assailant to stop, but the assailant threatened to kill him if he did not get back in his car.  The assailant then threatened to kill John and slashed his arm with a knife, cutting the sleeve of his coat and requiring him to get nine stitches on his arm.  The assailant left the scene and the Hunters drove 1 1/2 miles to John's house where they called the police at 9:08 p.m.

Sweat lived with his aunt, Vonnie Hall, across a five acre lot from John Hunter's mailbox.  Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Hall pulled into her driveway behind a car driven by Sweat's friend in which Sweat was a passenger.  She reprimanded Sweat and his friend because out on the road they had been driving closely behind her with their bright lights on.  According to Hall, Sweat “started acting crazy” and argued with his friend about having his high beams on.  Sweat went outside and Hall watched him walk down the road in a direction away from the intersection with the mailboxes. Sweat came back to the house and said, “I can't satisfy nobody.  I hurt everybody I see.”  He began giving his things to his aunt such as a watch and jewelry he was wearing and items in his pockets, including his wallet and a fold-up razor blade.  Hall stated he used the blade to cut dogs' ears.  Sweat went outside and began yelling, then asked his friend to take him to jail.  The two men left.  Magistrate Randy Carter testified that Sweat came to his office and stated that he “wanted to turn himself in, that he had hurt somebody, and he needed to be locked up.”  Carter called the Sheriff's office and police soon charged Sweat with assaulting John Hunter.

At trial, neither John Hunter nor Joe Hunter could not identify Sweat as the assailant they saw.  The only description they had given of the assailant was that he was a man or a boy.  Sweat's defense asked for a directed verdict of acquittal due to insufficient evidence, but it was refused.  On appeal in April 2009, the North Carolina Court of Appeals agreed with Sweat that the evidence was insufficient and reversed his conviction.  (State v. Sweat)  [7/09]


Mecklenburg County, NC John Wesley Benton Jan 31, 1942 (Charlotte)
On January 31, 1942, Blanche N. Jennings, a married white woman in Charlotte, NC, accused John Wesley Benton, a 33-year-old black man, of raping her.  In an agreement precluding a death sentence, Benton pled no contest to a reduced charge of assault with intent to commit rape.  He was sentenced to 15 years at hard labor.  In 1943, Governor Broughton granted Benton a full pardon.  The basis of the pardon is unknown because neither Benton's pardon application nor the pardon itself exists in state archives, and there were no contemporary accounts in the local press.  In 1947, North Carolina Council of State awarded Benton $715.30 for the seven months he spent behind bars.  Benton lived in Charlotte until his death in 1984.  (CWC)  [4/09]


Moore County, NC Samuel Poole May 19, 1973 (Robbins)
Samuel A. Poole was convicted of breaking into and entering the home of Tennie A. Maness with intent to commit rape.  Poole was given a mandatory death sentence.  The victim lived alone in a four room brick house on Rt. 1 in Robbins, NC.  Key evidence against Poole was that a button found in the victim's home seemed to match a button missing from a shirt that was found in Poole's home.  In addition, Poole owned the type of gun the victim claimed she saw, and he was in the general vicinity on the day of the incident.  These three items of evidence made up the entirety of the state's case.   On appeal in 1974, the NC Supreme Court ruled that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction and acquitted Poole of all charges.  (State v. Poole)  [7/05]


New Hanover County, NC Junius Wilson 1925 (Castle Hayne)
After being imprisoned for an alleged attempted rape in 1925, 17-year-old Junius Wilson was declared insane and sent to Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, a state mental facility.  The attempted rape charge was then dropped.  In 1932, Wilson was castrated in accordance with state law for "mental defectives and feebleminded inmates" accused of sex crimes.  He remained in state custody for 67 years.  In 1991, he was found not to be mentally ill, just deaf.  In 1992, he was officially freed and within two years he was given a three-bedroom cottage to live in on the grounds of Cherry Hospital.  Wilson died in 2001.  (Google)  [4/08]


New Hanover County, NC Christopher Spicer Convicted 1973
Christopher Spicer was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Donnie P. Christian.  At trial, a jailhouse informant, Charles Pennington, claimed that Spicer had confessed to him that he had committed the murder.  The N.C. Supreme Court overturned Spicer's conviction when it was proven that Spicer and Pennington had never been cellmates.  At Spicer's retrial, it took the jury only 15 minutes to unanimously acquit him.  (DRE)  [3/06]


Onslow County, NC Doves & Williams Aug 5, 1922
Frank Dove, Fred Dove, George Williams, and Willie Hardison were sentenced to death for the murder of Cyrus Jones.  Jones was shot on a highway about a mile and a half from the town of Swansboro where he lived.  The convictions of the first three were based solely on the testimony of Hardison.  On the morning of his execution in 1923, Hardison admitted he had perjured himself to implicate the other three under the coercive threats of police.  In 1928, the three men each received an unconditional pardon from the N.C. governor.  (News Article) (Mugshots) (ISI) (MOJIPCC)  [4/08]


Onslow County, NC Leo Waters Mar 31, 1981 (Jacksonville)
Leo Waters was convicted of raping a woman.  DNA tests exonerated Waters in 2003 and implicated Joel Bill Caulk, a Massachusetts inmate.  Waters was pardoned in 2005.  (IP)


Onslow County, NC Lesly Jean July 21, 1982
Lesly Jean was convicted in 1982 of sexually assaulting Alice Kathleen Wilson.  Jean's convictions were vacated in 1991 because the prosecution failed to disclose that the victim and a key witness were hypnotized prior to their identification of Jean.  Charges against Jean were dropped and he was released.  In 2001, DNA tests exonerated Jean.  He was pardoned and awarded compensation by the state.  (IP)  [7/05]


Richmond County, NC Jerry Lee Hamilton Dec 18, 1994
Jerry Lee Hamilton was sentenced to death for the murder of Joy Jones Goebel.  Soon after the murder, Hamilton's nephew, Johnnie Ray Knight, confessed to murdering Goebel and led police to the location of her body in a wooded area.  Knight later fingered Hamilton and said Hamilton had killed Goebel with Knight's knife after both he and Hamilton had sex with her.  Post-conviction DNA tests showed that the semen in Goebel belonged only to Knight.  At trial Knight testified that he was receiving no deals for his testimony, but a letter hidden by the prosecution later surfaced in which Knight wrote to a Sheriff's Dept. captain and invited him to "come talk to me and maybe we can work out a deal."  Because of the letter, Hamilton's conviction was overturned in 2003 and he faces a possible retrial.  (Raleigh News-Observer)  [12/05]


Robeson County, NC Henry Lee Hunt Sept 8, 1984

Henry Lee Hunt was convicted of the murders of Jackie Ray Ransom and Larry Jones.  Ransom had married Dorothy Locklear while she was still married to Rogers Locklear.  Dorothy and Rogers then hired A. R. Barnes to kill Ransom so Dorothy could collect on a $25,000 life insurance policy.  The policy paid a double indemnity for accidental death including homicide.  Barnes recruited his brother, Elwell Barnes to help in the murder.  Someone shot Ransom to death on Sept. 8, 1984 in the woods near a bar.  A week later, on Sept. 14, someone shot and killed a man named Larry Jones, apparently because Jones was telling police what he knew about the Ransom murder.  Jones was implicating Rogers Locklear in the murder, but made no mention of Hunt.  Jones was buried in a shallow grave.

A. R. Barnes confessed to the crimes.  Subsequently, he recanted and blamed Hunt, who had a criminal record and was in prison for a drug offense. Other witnesses also pointed to Hunt, although their initial statements conflicted with each other.  According to two reconstruction experts, witness Jerome Ratley's account of Jones's murder could not have happened the way that Ratley told the jury at Hunt's trial.  Prosecutors introduced a shovel into evidence that they said Hunt used to bury Jones, but they did not tell the jury that the soil on the shovel did not match the soil in which Jones had been buried.

Hunt consistently maintained his innocence and passed two lie detector tests regarding the murders.  While such tests do not prove Hunt's innocence, they raise doubt about his guilt.  Elwell Barnes signed an 1989 affidavit in which he wrote that Hunt "has been convicted for a crime that A. R. Barnes, Jerome Ratley, Roger Locklear and myself committed."  The prosecution withheld evidence and then "lost" field notes and other files that would have undermined the state's case.  In 2003, the state was refusing to allow lawyers to see the evidence that remained.  Hunt was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 13, 2003.  (Charlotte Observer) (Greensboro News & Record)  [5/08]


Robeson County, NC Eddie Hatcher May 31, 1999 (Maxton)

In 1988, Eddie Hatcher and a fellow American Indian took over The Robesonian newspaper offices in Lumberton and held 20 staff members hostage.  The pair demanded that the state governor commit to an independent investigation of allegations of crooked county government, unsolved murders and rampant drug trafficking in the area.  The pair released the hostages after then Gov. Jim Martin agreed.  A state task force later determined their allegations to be unfounded.  However, years later, a federal investigation had by 2006 led to the arrests of six sheriff deputies and two Lumberton police officers, with more arrests likely.  Deputies were living far beyond their means with profits from the drug trade flowing up Interstate 95.

Hatcher faced federal charges on the newspaper takeover, but by representing himself at trial convinced a jury to acquit him.  The state then filed charges on which he was convicted.  One condition of his parole was that he not enter Robeson County.  In 1998, following parole completion, Hatcher ignored the advice of friends and foes and returned to Robeson County.  He was a folk hero to some and became very active in local politics.  He even expressed possible intentions of running for a seat in the state legislature.

In 1999, Hatcher's friend, Brian McMillan was shot to death in Maxton.  Bullets from three different guns were found at the scene, implying more than one person committed the shooting.  Hatcher was arrested alone after the shooting and none of the recovered bullets were fired from his gun.  No one else was ever charged in the shooting.  McMillan's mother has even stated that she knows Hatcher did not kill her son.  At trial in 2000, the DA presented four criminals and an illiterate 20-year old as witnesses.  The witnesses convinced a jury to convict Hatcher of McMillan's murder.  Hatcher received a life without parole sentence.  He died in prison at age 51 in 2009.  (Screwed Central)  [2/07]


Union County, NC James Bernard Parker May 1990 (Monroe)
James Bernard Parker was accused of molesting 19 children and convicted of molesting four boys, ages 5 to 12.  The alleged assaults purportedly occurred near the Icemorlee Street Apartments in Monroe.  Few children initially told their parents. The stories came out only when school counselors began asking questions.  Parker was sentenced to 3 life terms plus 60 years.  No physical evidence linked him to the alleged crimes and he was charged even though children told stories of being tied to trees and fed poisoned ice cream.  They also gave a wide range of descriptions of their attacker.  In 2002, an investigation begun by a UNC journalism student brought forth 15 reported victims and witnesses who said the crimes never happened or that Parker was not the attacker.  The only three boys who testified against Parker have since signed affidavits saying Parker did not commit the crimes.  In 2004, Parker, who maintains his innocence, was coerced into pleading guilty to reduced sex crime charges in exchange for release from imprisonment.  (Article)


Union County, NC Johnathan Hoffman Nov 27, 1995 (Marshville)
Johnathan Gregory Hoffman (aka Jonathan) was sentenced to death for the robbery and murder of jewelry store owner Danny Cook.  Cook was shot to death during a robbery of his Marshville store by an assailant wearing a ski mask and carrying a sawed-off shotgun.  At trial, the state’s star witness, Johnell Porter, testified that Hoffman made a a jailhouse confession to him.  The prosecution hid evidence that Porter was receiving significant concessions for his testimony.  Because of this withheld evidence Hoffman was granted a new trial in 2004.  In 2006 Porter recanted his testimony and admitted it was false.  In 2007 all charges against Hoffman were dropped.  (AE) (DW) (State v. Hoffman)  [10/09]


Wayne County, NC Dwayne Dail Sept 4, 1987
Dwayne Allen Dail was convicted in 1989 of entering a Goldsboro home and raping a 12-year-old girl who lived there.  The girl initially described her assailant as having shoulder-length light brown hair and a beard.  Dail and others later testified that at the time of the attack his hair was bleached and cut in a "Billy Idol" style, and that he was incapable of growing anything more than patchy facial hair. Nevertheless, the girl identified Dail as her assailant and an expert testified that hairs found at the crime scene were microscopically consistent with those of Dail.  Dail reportedly turned down an offer to plead guilty in exchange for three years of probation.  A jury sentenced him to two life terms plus 15 years.  In 2007, DNA tests proved that Dail was not the girl's assailant, and he was released and pardoned.  (IP) (Goldsboro News-Argus)  [10/07]


Wilkes County, NC Charles Munsey May 1993

Charles Munsey was convicted of the murder of Shirley Weaver.  Weaver, 66, was killed during a robbery in her boyfriend's trailer near Wilkesboro.  She had been bludgeoned with a frying pan and a shotgun.  Munsey was convicted because of the testimony of Timothy Bryan Hall, a jailhouse informant.  Prior to trial, Munsey and his attorneys had seen Hall's name on a witness list, but had no idea who he was.  When Hall took the stand to testify, Munsey turned to his counsel and said, "I've never seen the man before."  Hall testified that he talked to Munsey in late 1993 in the yard at Central Prison.  According to Hall, Munsey was wearing an orange jumpsuit and sitting on a picnic table.  Munsey told him he surprised Weaver in the house.  She slapped him and he crushed her skull with a rifle butt.

Hall said he had no ulterior motive to testify against Munsey.  "I found God a few years ago, or a few months ago -- and I -- it's just the right thing to do. No matter, no matter what happens to me, I still feel like in my heart I've done the right thing."  Munsey's lawyers poked some holes in Hall's testimony; Central Prison had no orange jumpsuits or picnic tables.  However, they failed to win over the jury.

In 1997, Munsey's ex-brother-in-law, Oid Michael Hawkins, confessed to the murder.  He also said he had taken a pistol from Weaver's home and placed it in Munsey's home.  In 1998, a judge ordered Munsey's prosecutor, Randy Lyon, to turn over files he concealed from Munsey.  Six days later, after church services, Lyon went home and hanged himself.  His files showed that Hall had never been in Central Prison.  Despite the exonerating evidence, the new prosecutor, Tom Horner, fought to keep Munsey imprisoned.  Munsey won a new trial but died in prison before it could take place.  (News & Observer)  [5/08]


Wilson County, NC Keith Brown Apr 22, 1991 (Wilson)
Keith Brown was convicted of sexually assaulting a 32-year-old woman and her 9-year-old daughter.  Brown, who is mentally retarded, confessed to the crime under the pressure of police interrogation.  He was released in 1997 after DNA tests exonerated him and implicated a Florida inmate.  NC Governor Hunt pardoned Brown in 1999.  (IP)  [4/08]