Local connection widens in NYC murder

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 29, 2003

WINDSOR – The tale of the Bertie County connection to last week’s murder of a New York City Councilman is becoming more intriguing.

On Wednesday, first-term Councilman James Davis died as the result of being shot several times while at a Council meeting at City Hall. After firing the fatal bullets from the balcony area of the Council chambers, the assailant, Othniel Boaz Askew, was shot and killed by a New York City Police officer assigned to guard City Hall.

In a story that appeared in Saturday’s edition of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Askew obtained a permit in May, 2001 from the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office to purchase a handgun. Askew, who had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force in April of that same year, presented a valid North Carolina driver’s license with a Bertie County address, thus fulfilling the place of residence requirements in order to apply for a permit.

That address – 233 Rockpile Road, Ahoskie; a rural road near Powellsville in northern Bertie County – was verified through Bertie tax records as belonging to Askew’s parents, Orlando Alexander Askew and Carolyn Askew.

After running a required background check on Othniel Askew, Bertie Sheriff Greg Atkins issued him a permit to purchase a handgun on May 18, 2001. Atkins stated that, &uot;other than a speeding ticket, Askew had a spotless record,&uot; thus not raising any red flags that would have prevented the Sheriff from issuing the permit.

One day later, records show that Askew purchased a .40 caliber pistol from a gun dealer in Sneads Ferry, located in Onslow County, less than 100 miles from Askew’s final military post – Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. North Carolina law allows the holder of a permit to purchase a legal weapon anywhere in the state. However, the permit must be obtained in the person’s county of residence.

It is not known whether the handgun purchased with the permit is the same weapon Askew used in the murder.

However, Atkins is now considering launching an investigation of possible fraud in the matter due to the fact that there is no place of residence at 233 Rockpile Road. In addition, that address was used for Othniel Askew, as well as possibly for another member of his family, to register to vote in Bertie County. At the time of the murder, Othniel Askew was presumably living in New York City, as was his father, Orlando Askew.

On Friday, Dwight Ransome of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, acting on a plea for help from the New York City Police Department to see if Othniel Askew had any relatives living in Bertie County or the state, discovered there was no dwelling located at 233 Rockpile Road. There was an empty lot where Ransome determined some sort of structure once stood.

Ransome failed to locate any relatives of Askew living either locally or in the state.

Meanwhile, a check of voter registration records in Bertie County revealed that on January 22, 2001, a man by the name of Niel Boaz Askew used the Rockpile Road address to register to vote. That form also included a mailing address at a post office box in Powellsville. Ransome confirmed that Orlando and Carolyn Askew also used that Post Office box address.

Two months later (March, 2001), a man identifying himself as Aaron Askew sent a request to the Bertie Board of Elections to change the date of birth on his voter registration card from Oct. 17, 1972 to Jan. 17, 1972. Since the signed name at the bottom of the request (Aaron Askew) did not match the name at the top of the form (Niel Boaz Askew), Bertie elections officials did not process the request.

In addition, those Bertie officials attempted to contact Askew, by phone and letter (to the PO Box address in Powellsville), in order to verify that Aaron Askew and Niel Boaz Askew were one in the same. He finally responded to those attempts to contact him, calling the Board of Elections office to explain that Aaron was his nickname. He was sent a voter registration card to make his amended changes, but Bertie officials said it was never returned. They also verified he never voted in Bertie County.

Last month, Bertie Elections officials said they received a request from Niel Boaz Askew to cancel his voter registration because he no longer resided in Bertie County and was in the process of registering to vote in another state. At the time, Askew, according to his request, claimed he was moving to Arizona.

In the meantime, the Rockpile Road address remains active on Bertie’s voter registration documents under the name of Alex C. Askew. He registered to vote in March of 1999. It is not known if Alex Askew, who listed his birth date as 1967 on the voter registration card, is related to Othniel Askew.

Bertie Elections office records show that Alex Askew has never voted in the county.

Also, it’s unknown whether or not a dwelling occupied by Othniel (aka Aaron) Askew or Alex Askew actually existed on the property at 233 Rockpile Road at any time after January of 2001. If there were no actual physical structure on that property from January 2001 until present, that would constitute voter fraud and possibility postal fraud

Sheriff Atkins said his department would continue to investigate this case.