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Johnson receives life without parole

WINTON – Life without the possibility of parole.

Judge Clifton Everette handed down that sentence here Wednesday after it took a Hertford County Superior Court jury less than one hour to find William Curtis Johnson of Ahoskie guilty of first-degree murder.

Johnson has been jailed since Oct. 28, 2002 on the charge of murdering Ray Anthony Johnkins of Colerain. Johnkins was shot once in the arm and the left side while standing in front of the First Street Billiard Club in Ahoskie shortly past 7 p.m. on Oct. 25, 2002.

The victim was alive when law enforcement officers arrived. However, Johnkins succumbed one day later at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

District 6B Attorney Valerie Asbell, who prosecuted the case for the state, remarked that she was glad this part of the process was finally over for the Johnkins family.

"As with every family who loses a brother, a son or a friend by a senseless murder, this family may now be able to move forward with their lives knowing that justice was served for their loved one," Asbell said.

She continued, "Although the verdict does not bring Ray back, it may serve to provide some closure for this family that has suffered tremendously since October of 2002."

Beginning Tuesday, Asbell presented evidence to connect Johnson with the crime. After telling the jury that shortly after Johnson arrived in the Maple Street area of Ahoskie at around 7 p.m. on Oct. 25, 2002, he walked past several people standing on the sidewalk in front of the old Legal Aid Building and the Kol Dee Club. At that time, he started yelling for people to ‘clear the block.'

Asbell's evidence further showed that Johnkins made the statement to the effect of, ‘I'm grown,' at which time Johnson turned around, walked over to Johnkins, pulled out a .357 Magnum revolver and fired the weapon.

At the time of his arrest three days later, Johnson was operating the same green Ford Thunderbird he had driven to Maple St. on the evening of the murder. Members of the Ahoskie Police Department and the North Carolina SBI found a .357 revolver in the driver's side floorboard. Ballistics testing confirmed it was the same weapon used in the murder.

Asbell was appreciative of the investigative work of the Ahoskie Police and the SBI. She also expressed thanks to Assistant DA Assata Buffaloe, Victim Witness Advocate Jaime Heckstall, Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan, Sheriff's Captain Timothy Lassiter, Augustus Koonce and New York City Police Detective William Fisher for all of their hard work before and during the trial.

At the time of his arrest in Ahoskie, Johnson was under investigation by New York law enforcement officials for an attempted murder in that state.