Homicides up in 2010; two slayings remain unsolved

By Brie Handgraaf

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Of the 11 homicides in 2010, two remain unsolved. Investigators continue to track down leads in the shooting deaths of Tony Wilkins on June 30 and Terrell Antiwan Gray on Oct. 9.

According to the autopsy report, around 9 a.m. June 30 a witness heard Wilkins, 41, let someone into his apartment on the 500 block of Cascade Avenue.

A short time later, the witness told police she heard a gunshot and called 911. Wilkins died a short time later from several gunshot wounds.

“I was just shocked,” Wilkins’ niece, Deshonda Evans, said at the crime scene. “He keeps to himself. I don’t know of any enemies he had.”

Police Chief John Manley said he could not give any further details of the case, but he said evidence indicates Wilkins knew his killer.

“He had a familiarity with the suspect,” Manley said. “I think we have some fairly decent information, and it will get solved, it is just a matter of when.”

Investigators also are working on the homicide of Gray, 26, who was found dead shortly after arriving in Rocky Mount from South Carolina for a family wedding.

“He didn’t even live here. He had maybe $60 on him,” Gray’s mother, Judy, said. “There was no reason to shoot him.”

Gray was found shortly before 1 a.m. Oct. 9 near the L & M Food Mart at 540 Raleigh Road. He was taken to Nash General Hospital, where he subsequently died from his wounds.

Manley said investigators believe Gray’s death was the result of a robbery gone awry. Gray was shot several times.

Manley added that investigators are actively working both deaths, and he touted the nine homicides solved this year as well as the 90 percent solvability rate on homocides in the city since 1977.

“Certainly we’d love to solve all of them,” he said. “I am proud of the work the men and women of the department have done to bring arrests in these cases and know steps are being taken by investigators to bring closure to these unsolved homicides.”

Wilkins and Gray are not Rocky Mount Police Department’s only unsolved homicides in recent history. There are 25 homicides since 1977 that remain unsolved.

“It isn’t necessarily time that makes a case go cold,” Manley said. “It is more when all leads have been exhausted and there is no new information coming in on a case.”

He said it is particularly crucial to have the public involved when it comes to solving cold cases.

“We rely heavily upon the community because someone has information on these cases and for some reason have not come forward,” he said. “If the shoe was on the other foot, what would you want done? Wouldn’t you want someone to come forward if you or a loved one was the victim?”

Anyone with information about an unsolved homicides is asked to contact Detective Michael Lewis at 972-1457 or Capt. Laura Fahnestock at 972-1681. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 977-1111 or e-mail crimestoppers@rockymountnc.gov.

Here are summaries of each of the department’s 25 cold cases:

Sept. 22, 1977; Robert Earl Demary, 16.

Demary’s body was found with one gunshot wound to the head in the parking lot of London Mills in the 500 block of Paul Street. The teenager had just returned home from out of state and was last seen getting off the bus at Rocky Mount Trailways Bus Depot on South Washington Street. Witnesses report a dark colored car was in the area where Demary’s body was found.

Oct. 30, 1987; Ibrahim K. Salem, 20.

Salem was shot with a rifle during a robbery at Branch Street Grocery at 1417 Branch St. A witness described the suspect as a 5-feet-2 tall black man with a light build, wearing a black handkerchief over his face.

July 8, 1990; Magdalene Brantley Puckett, 68.

The victim was killed when four black males reportedly broke into her home in the middle of the night and beat her to death. The victim’s 81-year-old mother also was severely beaten during the incident, but survived.

April 10, 1991; Cheryl Denise Watson, 25.

Watson was found beaten to death at Pineview Cemetery on Raleigh Street.

July 2, 1996; Toney Grant, 46.

The retired school teacher and guidance counselor was killed in his home on Myrtle Avenue. Police said he was beaten to death and then the suspect or suspects set his home on fire.

Aug. 22, 1998; David Moody, 24.

Moody was shot to death while standing at the intersection of Carolina Avenue and Goldleaf Street. Witnesses reported a green van drove by the victim and someone in the van fired a shotgun, fatally wounding Moody.

Dec. 29, 1998; Melvin Eugene Avent, 19.

Avent was shot around 1:40 a.m. at the intersection of Luper and Mullins streets. Avent was standing at the streets when a dark colored car came by and one of the occupants of the vehicle reportedly shot him.

Feb. 20, 2000; James “Cotton” Whelen, 87.

Whelan and his wife were the apparent victims of a home invasion where the unidentified suspects reportedly bound the victims. Days later, when the home invasion was discovered, Whelen was dead. His 73-year-old wife suffered a broken hip in the attack.

Dec. 9, 2000; Lewis D. Hines, 40.

Hines was found beaten to death in his home on the 700 block of Ravenwood Drive.

Dec. 5, 2004; Billy Ray Childress.

The victim was stabbed in his home on the 1200 block of Boone Street. His brother was also assaulted in the fatal attack, but survived.

Nov. 12, 2006; Dexter Xavier Johnson, 33.

Johnson was gunned down during a robbery attempt at East Grand Food Mart at 422 E. Grand Ave.

Feb. 7, 2007; Baby John Nash, newborn.

The 2-day-old infant was found dead inside a trash dumpster behind the Food Lion at 802 Harbor West Drive. The case made headlines around the region, but the victim nor his killer have ever been identified.

Feb. 10, 2007; Gary Lamont Robbins, 26.

Robbins was driving in South Rocky Mount when another vehicle began chasing him. At the intersection of Rex and Vance streets, the suspect reportedly shot into Robbins’ vehicle, killing him.

July 2, 2007; Shandon Terez Hedgepeth, 29.

Authorities found Hedgepeth dead after extinguishing a house fire on the 200 block of North Harris Street.

Dec. 21, 2007; Leona L. Johnson, 50, and Deborah M. Scriven.

Officers found Johnson — a Rocky Mount police secretary — and Scriven inside their residence on 1200 block of Compass Creek Drive. They had been shot to death. Scriven’s 21-year-old son also was shot in the attack, but survived.

Jan. 2, 2008; Carolyn Whitehead Ransome, 55.

Ransome’s body was found in her apartment on the 900 block of Gregg Court. The cause of death was ruled strangulation.

Jan. 12, 2008; Jamar Whitaker, 2.

During the attempted robbery of Whitaker’s parents, the victim was fatally shot. The parents were not injured in the attack.

April 2, 2008; Ryan Anthony Lee, 16.

Lee was involved in an argument with several individuals near Branch and Daughtridge streets. He was shot to death and his body was found a block away on the 1600 block of Clark Street.

Dec. 23, 2008; Marcella X. Hunter, 21.

The victim was shot during an attempted robbery at a residence on the 800 block of Williford Street. Another man was injured, but survived.

July 11, 2009; Charles Creech, 46.

Creech was allegedly involved in an altercation with a man on the 800 block of Columbia Avenue. He was beaten in the attack and died several days later from his injuries.

Aug. 21, 2009; Henry Boney Jr., 41.

Boney was shot during a failed robbery attempt outside of his home on the 1800 block of Bedford Road.

Sept. 4, 2009; Alton Lee Harper, 57.

Harper and his daughter were reportedly robbed by an unknown man at their home on the 4800 block of Crape Myrtle Street. Harper suffered a heart attack and died.

Sept. 8, 2009; Tremaine Larquez Lynch, 17.

The victim was shot on the 2100 block of Travis Run during a robbery. According to police reports, four to six men were reportedly involved in the robbery. One of the suspects is described as an older black male, between 45 and 50 years old with a thin build, grayish thin beard and dark clothing.