Five individuals charged in death of Ahoskie teen

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 2, 2003

AHOSKIE – Of all the electronic gadgetry used in the battle against crime, it was a simple cell phone call that brought an end to a tragic incident here Tuesday afternoon.

Ahoskie Police Chief Steve Hoggard is praising an unidentified private citizen whose cell phone call provided an accurate description and movement of a get-away vehicle allowed local law enforcement officers to track down and apprehend five suspects, allegedly involved in the murder of an Ahoskie teen.

Latif Ivan Irby, 23, of Newport News Va., Desmond Horton, 26, of Roanoke Rapids, Dana Smith, 20, of Newport News, Derrick Horton, 21, of Hampton, Va. and James Risper, 22, of Roanoke Rapids are all behind bars in connection with the murder, which occurred shortly past 12 noon in the area of First and Maple streets in Ahoskie.

The victim was 19-year-old Bobby Lee Harrell Jr. of Ahoskie. He reportedly died at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital. Hoggard listed the murder motive as an alleged armed robbery.

Hoggard reported that Irby is being held without bond for felony first degree murder in addition to charges of armed robbery and attempted armed robbery. Derrick Horton and Risper are each being held under a $600,000 bond for accessory after the fact of first degree murder and attempted armed robbery.

Desmond Horton, the driver of the get-away car, is detained under a $360,000 bond. He stands charged with accessory after the fact, two counts of assault on government officials and possession of crack cocaine. He also faces 15 traffic violations, including speeding 100 mph in a 55 mph zone and felony speed to elude arrest.

Smith, a female, was placed under a $300,000 bond for accessory after the fact.

At 12:20 p.m. on Tuesday, the Ahoskie Police Department (APD) received a call from Hunter’s Funeral Home, reporting that a man, with a gunshot wound in his upper chest, had ran into the business and collapsed. APD officers were dispatched to the scene and Hertford County EMS was contacted.

Howard Hunter III was working at Hunter’s Funeral Home – located on Rhue Street, one block east of the intersection of First and Maple streets – when he said he heard three gunshots. Inquisively, he and a co-worker went outside to see what was going on. There, Hunter reported seeing several individuals running in one direction and the victim running in another.

&uot;He (Harrell) ran right towards us and went into our building where he collapsed,&uot; said Hunter. &uot;We immediately called the police station and stayed with Bobby until the police arrived.&uot;

The car chase begin just minutes following the shooting. APD Captain Mike Cherry was en route to the crime scene, but was diverted when the dispatcher reported receiving a cell phone call from a motorist that witnessed the suspect vehicle leaving the scene. From a safe distance, that private citizen followed the suspect vehicle and reported that it turned onto Willoughby Road off the Ahoskie-Cofield Road.

&uot;Had it not been for that information, the suspect vehicle would have been long gone,&uot; said Cherry.

&uot;We thank that private citizen for the information that placed Captain Cherry in just the right place to initiate the pursuit of the suspects,&uot; stated Hoggard. &uot;That vital information made the difference in this case. It proves once again that positive things happen when private citizens help the police.&uot;

Upon turning his vehicle onto Willoughby Road, Cherry reported seeing a black car entering a curve approximately a half-mile away. As things turned out, Cherry had located the suspect car – a black Pontiac Trans Am.

&uot;The car turned left at the Brantley’s Grove intersection and I was able to close pretty fast and initiated a traffic stop just past Brantley’s Grove towards Cofield,&uot; reported Cherry.

Cherry went on to say that once the suspect vehicle stopped, he exited his patrol car, with shotgun at the ready, but the car sped away. It then turned onto the Bluefoot Road and made its way back out to US 13 near Winton. By that time, several other law enforcement officers from the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and the APD joined Cherry in the chase.

&uot;We headed back towards Ahoskie at a high rate of speed,&uot; stated Cherry who said he never looked at his speedometer, keeping his focus on the task at hand. &uot;The suspect vehicle was very C&R (careless and reckless), even passing vehicles on the right as well as the left.&uot;

As the chase entered the town limits of Ahoskie, HCSO Deputy Neil Ambrose managed to pass the suspect vehicle while fellow Deputy Johnny Joyner pulled up to the rear bumper of the get-away car. In a textbook move, Ambrose slowed, causing the suspect vehicle to make contact with the rear bumper of his car. Meanwhile, Joyner closed in, making slight contact with the rear bumper of the suspect car, thus bringing it to a halt on Academy Street between Hayes and First streets.

&uot;We heard squealing tires, a loud thump and then a gunshot,&uot; said Charlie Pierce who was eating lunch with his daughter and mother less than a half-block away. &uot;By the time we rushed outside, the police had that black car surrounded and began ordering the occupants to exit the car.&uot;

What Pierce didn’t realize was that one suspect, Derrick Horton, had already exited the vehicle, darting through the yards of several homes before being apprehended one block east on Carolina Ave. by Captain Cherry, NC Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Warren and other lawmen.

The gunshot Pierce heard was apparently fired as a warning by one of the lawmen at the scene of the traffic stop. Cherry said that to his knowledge, no shots were fired at the officers by any of the suspects involved.

&uot;After the suspect vehicle was stopped, the driver attempted to move the vehicle forward and, at that time, one of the deputies pulled his service revolver and fired a round into the engine area of the vehicle,&uot; reported Hoggard. &uot;The suspects, other than Derrick Horton, surrendered at that point.&uot;

While Derrick Horton was fleeing to elude arrest, Cherry wheeled his APD cruiser off Academy St. and into a yard of a residence in an attempt to cut off the suspect. Hoggard revealed that the police car struck the house, causing damage to both.

&uot;I commend Captain Cherry for the way he handled the chase in a professional manner,&uot; said Hoggard. &uot;His training and years of experience contributed to a successful conclusion of this incident.&uot;

Hoggard also praised the assistance of the HCSO and the NC Highway Patrol.

APD Detective Sgt. Troy Fitzhugh is handling the investigation, one that may produce additional charges against the suspects. He is being assisted by the SBI, who sent their Crime Scene Unit to Ahoskie later on Tuesday to help gather evidence at the murder site as well as from the vehicle.