Local DA responds to pleas for state/federal investigation

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, June 28, 2016


HALIFAX – While her office does not have investigative powers, local District Attorney Valerie Asbell said Friday she has reached out to the State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI to assist local agencies in their investigations of several cold cases across the Roanoke Valley.

Her comments, in the form of a statement, came soon after a rally held the same day in Halifax where the Halifax and Northampton chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called on her for assistance and to form a task force devoted to solving these cases.

District Attorney Valerie Asbell is joined by Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp as they listen to the remarks made during Friday’s rally held at the Halifax County Courthouse. | Photo by Lance Martin / www.rrspin.com

District Attorney Valerie Asbell is joined by Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp as they listen to the remarks made during Friday’s rally held at the Halifax County Courthouse. | Photo by Lance Martin / www.rrspin.com

“Finding answers for these families has been an unfortunate situation which requires all hands on deck,” Asbell said in the statement. “While my office does not have investigative authority, I have reached out to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and they are working hand in hand with local law enforcement agencies to get answers for these families and will continue to work together with the help of the community.”

Asbell attended the Journey for Justice rally held on the front lawn of the Halifax County courthouse. With her were the sheriffs of Halifax and Northampton counties, Wes Tripp and Jack Smith respectivedly, as well as several investigators who have been working the cases.

“This is an important mission and I encourage everyone to come forward to help. It is going to take everyone in the community speaking up when they hear, see or know something. No tip is too small. I promise to continue to zealously prosecute all criminal cases in my district,” Asbell stated.

While Asbell and the two sheriffs were not asked to speak at Friday’s rally, the District Attorney said, “One family is too many to have experienced the loss of a loved one. As I listened to the families pour out their pain, each shared a similar story of hurt, despair and frustration, all resulting from the loss or death of their loved ones. I stand with all of the family members in expressing our appreciation to President Tony Burnette of the Northampton NAACP and Ms. Shelia Moses for continuing to keep these loved ones and family members in the forefront of the ongoing search for answers for these hurting families.”

Asbell said she wants to be a supportive piece of the puzzle in prosecuting any criminal charges that result from these investigations.

“My responsibilities are governed by the North Carolina General Statutes 7A-61 which states that my role is to prosecute all criminal actions in Superior, District and Juvenile Court and advise the law enforcement officers in my district,” Asbell said.

SBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Walter Brown said, “The SBI works closely with all agencies.”

While there is no task force per se, Halifax Sheriff Wes Sheriff Tripp, Sheriff Smith, and Roanoke Rapids Police Chief Chuck Hasty said they have already enlisted the help of the SBI, FBI and national criminal databases in their quest to find answers for the families of those missing or the victims of unsolved murders.

“In my many years of service, my main focus has always been the victims and their families,” Tripp said afterward. “I have always understood the importance of keeping matters in the forefront. Unless you have experienced it personally, no one knows the pain and anguish a person goes through with the loss of a murdered or missing family member.”

Tripp said everyone, from family to law enforcement, “wishes to have these cases solved. Now is not the time to encourage controversy.”

Information on the cases, he said, has and will continue to be shared with agencies involved.

“As the elected sheriff of Halifax County, I work for the citizens. I have a working relationship with the elected district attorney. Along with that relationship, we work well with other law enforcement agencies surrounding the Roanoke Valley,” Tripp stated.

Tripp said anyone with information is encouraged to come forth.

“You will remain anonymous. My office will pay for information that leads to the arrest of those involved,” Tripp said.

Hasty specifically addressed the case of Shonda Stansbury. “If there are any new leads that are developed, we will be following up on them,” he said. “Unfortunately, over the past few years, no new information has been brought to our attention. With the help of surrounding agencies, news media and other non-profit groups, we should stay vigilant in our efforts to find the missing persons in Roanoke Rapids and Halifax County.”

Smith deferred comment until after meeting with DA, Tripp and Hasty, but did confirm he has entered the cold cases, which occurred before he was appointed and elected sheriff, into national criminal databases as well as conferred with the SBI and FBI on them.

(Lance Martin is Editor and Publisher of www.rrspin.com. Permission was granted to publish this story.)