Guilty as charged

Published 9:41 am Monday, September 19, 2016

WINTON – A message was sent loud and clear here Thursday….. gun violence will not be tolerated and those committing that type of crime will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

In a session of Hertford County Superior Court, the jury returned guilty verdicts against a pair of local men for their roles in a March 26 shooting at Serenity Mobile Home Park in Murfreesboro that severely injured two adults while one bullet grazed a cup held by the couple’s two-year-old child.

After the jury announced their decision, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Cy A. Grant Sr. sentenced 30-year-old Earl Lamont Powell of 106 Standing Lane, Murfreesboro, to a minimum of 61 years and four months in prison, and a maximum term of 80 years and seven months. Shenondoah Perry, age 20, of 186 Pinetops Circle, Murfreesboro, received a sentence of 32.9-to-43.5 years behind bars.

Both men were found guilty of three counts each of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, and assault on a child under the age of 12. Powell had one other guilty charge, that of possessing a firearm by a convicted felon.

“Over the past six to 12 months, gun violence has risen to the forefront of public consciousness, especially in this community,” said District Attorney Valerie M. Asbell who handled the prosecution for the state during the trial. “Victims of these tragedies are not limited to those men, women, and children killed, injured, or present during these horrific events. The consequences of gun violence are more pervasive and affect entire communities, families, and children.

“Our neighborhoods are supposed to be safe for our children to go out and play. But now with all of this gun violence, parents are scared for themselves and their children. I hope this verdict will let the community know that we, the District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement officers, are taking this gun violence very seriously and are trying to make our communities a safer place to live,” Asbell added.

She also noted that Powell and Perry must serve every day of the minimum sentences handed down by Judge Grant.

Evidence presented by Asbell and Assistant District Attorney Julie Weissman during the seven-day trial identified the victims in the case as Travis Eley and Trechelle Walton, along with their young son.

The prosecutors laid out the timeline in this criminal case, saying the victims resided at 108 Standing Land in the Serenity Mobile Home Park in Murfreesboro. The evidence showed that Eley and Walton, joined by other family members, were having a cookout at their residence on the afternoon of March 25. At some point, Eley and Powell got into an altercation or fight. After the fight ended, Eley, Walton and their son left their home and went to a relative’s house.

Later that same day, Eley received a call that his trailer had been shot up. After receiving that information, Eley and Walton decided it would be better for their safety to rent a hotel room rather than going back to their residence. However, they did have to return home in order to pick up their photo identification in case it was required to rent a hotel room.

Shortly after midnight (the early morning hours of March 26), the couple (joined by their son) returned to their residence. Evidence showed that Walton was driving and as she was pulling into the driveway of the residence, she and Eley saw Powell and Perry running towards the vehicle from behind a barn located on the property.

Evidence showed that Powell was in possession of a .40 caliber pistol and Perry was carrying a shotgun at that time and they were shooting at the occupied vehicle as they ran towards the car.

Eley, seated in the passenger’s side of the vehicle, was struck with a shotgun blast in the eye. Walton was shot by a .40 caliber bullet, which entered inside the vehicle through the windshield and struck her in the right temple, resulting in the bullet lodging in her head.

Meanwhile, the couple’s son was in his safety restraint seat in the back seat of the vehicle. He was holding a sippy cup and a bullet grazed and broke that cup. He was unharmed.

Evidence gained through an investigation conducted by the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office revealed the vehicle was struck at least seven times by .40 caliber bullets on the passenger side of the car and in the headlight and the trunk.

Walton managed to drive the bullet riddled vehicle to the Murfreesboro Police Department where Hertford County EMS was dispatched to aid the shooting victims. Eley and Walton were later airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Eley was again airlifted to UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill.

Before being sent to Greenville, Eley was able to identify the two shooters to Lt. Dexter Hayes of the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office.

The evidence also revealed that since the shooting, Eley has lost most of the sight in his right eye and has had numerous surgeries. Walton still has seizures and other health problems as a result of her gunshot wound.

“I want to thank (Hertford County) Sheriff Juan Vaughan and his department for their hard work on this case. I especially want to thank Lieutenant Dexter Hayes, Detective Chase Oliver, and former Detective William Barmer of the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office for their professionalism and excellent investigation during this case,” Asbell said.

“My officers did a great job in investigating this case and collecting the evidence that allowed our District Attorney to do her job and do it well,” said Sheriff Vaughan.

“I agree with madam DA, we’ve got to send a message that gun violence will not be tolerated here in Hertford County,” the Sheriff continued. “I honestly do not think that those using weapons to commit crimes even give one thought to damage, physically and mentally, those bullets leave behind. Those bullets not only leave physical scars, and sometimes death, but these types of crimes leave law abiding citizens of our county worried about their safety.

“We will not tolerate those going into our otherwise peaceful neighborhoods and shooting into homes and vehicles. If you do, we will arrest you and, like this case, upon conviction you stand to stay in prison for a long, long time,” Vaughan concluded.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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