Hebert receives life without parole

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 13, 2005

JACKSON – The nightmare may not be over, but the final chapter perhaps is written.

Jason Dwayne Hebert will spend the rest of his natural life in a state prison for the July, 2000 murder of Rich Square Police Chief Joe White.

Hebert appeared before Resident Superior Court Judge Cy Grant here Monday morning and pleaded guilty to murder in White’s death and also to the use of a dangerous weapon in the commission of a crime.

&uot;Do you plead guilty,&uot; Grant asked. Hebert replied in the affirmative. &uot;Are you in fact guilty,&uot; the judge continued, with Hebert again responding yes.

The judge said the plea was being entered as part of an agreement to not seek the death penalty in the case and to accept a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Judicial District 6-B Attorney Valerie Asbell then gave the highlights of the state’s case, saying Hebert was an early suspect in the murder, but that many others were investigated. She said information obtained from those close to Hebert and a taped conversation in which he &uot;made incriminating statements&uot; were what led investigators back to him.

Asbell said officers with the Norfolk (Virginia) Police Department’s dive team searched two creeks in Bertie County near Aulander and in the second one found a .45 caliber handgun. Ballistics showed the gun matched the bullet found at the scene of the chief’s death.

In July of this year the team went back to the creek and found both Chief White’s handgun and wallet, according to Asbell.

After hearing the summation of the case, Judge Grant accepted the plea and allowed Hebert to speak. Hebert then gave a detailed account of what happened on July 16, 2000 in his own words. (See related story this page.)

After Hebert’s account, Grant allowed members of the White family to speak to the court.

Cynthia Moore, Chief White’s daughter, said it was an emotional time for her and her family as she began speaking.

&uot;In the course of this ordeal, I didn’t think it could get any worse,&uot; Moore said. &uot;We did meet with Mrs. Asbell and told her to take the plea and I agree with that.

&uot;We figured it was the best possible choice,&uot; she continued. &uot;I thought we were as hurt as anyone could get. This has been a long, trying ordeal.&uot;

Moore said she was angry and that she didn’t realize how deep anger could get.

&uot;I heard what Mr. Hebert said and I still don’t get it,&uot; she said. &uot;I don’t forgive him. Anything he’s said or done I don’t find noble because he could have done that July 16 2000.&uot;

Joyce White, the late chief’s widow, said the entire ordeal had hurt her in every way.

&uot;This has totally destroyed me physically and mentally,&uot; she said. &uot;There will be no more family gatherings with Joe running around taking pictures…no more pampering for Joyce.

&uot;My life, I feel, is over. Except for my children and grandchildren, I have nothing to live for because he was my life.&uot;

White became too emotional to continue and was helped back to her place by family members.

Cheryl Carson, who is White’s youngest daughter, said she had a challenge for Hebert.

&uot;I want to challenge Mr. Hebert to find a way to fix it,&uot; she said. &uot;Help someone else not to make the same stupid, senseless decision.&uot;

Following the family’s comments, defense attorney Tom Salinger asked Grant to allow the two sentences to run concurrently. Asbell objected. She said even though under North Carolina law, life without parole meant life without parole, she wanted the sentences to run consecutively.

&uot;On July 16, 2000, because of a senseless act, you took the life of a good husband…. a good friend of this community,&uot; Grant told Hebert. &uot;He was a true Christian gentleman.

&uot;At some point, maybe it will be possible for God to show mercy, but I cannot. I will not,&uot; Grant said.

Grant sentenced Hebert to no less than 64 months and no more than 86 months in the Department of Corrections for the use of a dangerous weapon in the commission of a robbery. He said the sentence of life without parole would run consecutively and not concurrent with that sentence.

After Judge Grant ended court, White said she was having a tough time, but felt the family made the right decision.

&uot;I didn’t want to go through a long trial,&uot; she said. &uot;You never know what a jury of 12 may do. The best idea was to make sure he couldn’t get out and do this to somebody else.&uot;

White, who became visibly angry during portions of Hebert’s statement, said she felt he wanted sympathy, but she had none to offer him.

&uot;I don’t care anything about him,&uot; she said. &uot;Other than his mother, I have no feelings for that person.&uot;

White said she felt the decision was right to accept the plea because she wanted to &uot;let him sit there and be miserable the rest of his life.&uot;

Asbell said her decision to accept the offer of life without parole was made based on the White family’s belief it was the best thing.

&uot;I did what the family wanted me to do in this case,&uot; she said. &uot;After several meetings, they assured me this is what they wanted done.&uot;

The late chief’s brother, Carl White, said he was glad to see this part come to an end, but wasn’t satisfied.

&uot;I’m glad it’s over,&uot; he said. &uot;My niece said it best, if he had been sincere, why did it take five years and still he didn’t confess until the evidence was overwhelming.&uot;

For his part, current Rich Square Police Chief Bo Roye said the nightmare wasn’t over for his town.

&uot;It will never be put behind us,&uot; Roye said. &uot;This is just the end of another chapter. That’s the judicial system, whether you like it or not.&uot;