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Fire rekindled under cold case

WINTON – As a veteran criminal investigator, it gets under the skin of Dexter Hayes when he encounters roadblocks in an attempt to solve a murder case.

Hayes, now the Sheriff of Hertford County, was one of the investigators assigned to a double murder case in Murfreesboro back in early September of 2016 where a father and son – 59-year-old James Beale and 34-year-old Michael Scott Lassiter – were found shot to death inside a home they shared in Woodridge Mobile Home Park.

Nineteen months and a lot of sleepless nights later, this case remains unsolved, haunting Hayes to his very core.

“Yes, it bothers me,” Hayes said earlier this week when talking about the still unsolved double murder. “My job is to solve criminal cases, no matter their severity. That job becomes more intense when dealing with an unsolved murder because there is a person, or persons, out there who is free at this moment in time. If they killed once, perhaps they’ll do it again.”

With that in mind, Hayes is intensifying the efforts of his department to look deeper into this particular case.

“We’re now in the process of re-interviewing all those we talked to earlier about these murders,” Hayes said. “We’re seeking more information; seeking more leads; new leads.

“Some we interviewed earlier were very tight-lipped at the time,” he continued. “Now, nearly two years later, maybe they’ll be more open to talk about this case.”

Hayes and his investigators now have the luxury of dangling some money in the face of those who may want to share information on the case.

“Thanks to the (North Carolina) Governor’s Office, we have a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for taking the lives of Mr. Beale and Mr. Lassiter,” Hayes noted.

The Sheriff stressed it was no secret that Lassiter was a known drug dealer prior to his death.

“Some say he (Lassiter) got what was coming to him, but that’s cold-hearted,” Hayes remarked. “Yes, Mr. Lassiter had a shady past, but he was a human being. No one deserves to die in the manner his life ended, or like his father died. Both men had family members that loved them. They want some measure of closure.”

What’s known to date in this case is that the father and son lived at 186 Pinetops Circle, located within the mobile home park off Wise’s Store Road. In the early morning hours of Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, the two were gunned down.

The call came in to Hertford County 9-1-1 Dispatch at 2:11 a.m. from a neighbor that reported hearing what sounded like a scuffle outside and then heard gunshots. Upon the arrival of HCSO deputies, assisted by officers with the Murfreesboro Police Department, the two victims were discovered deceased inside the singlewide mobile home.

The law enforcement officers initially went to the front door of the residence, finding it open. They then went to the back door, entering to find one victim lying on the floor in a bedroom. The other victim was found lying on the kitchen floor.

There was a firearm located on the floor adjacent to the victim found in the kitchen. A check of that weapon revealed it had not been recently fired.

Additionally, there was a vehicle parked in the yard of the residence with its engine idling. Both the driver’s side and passenger’s side windows were fully lowered and there was music playing from the vehicle, either a radio or CD player.

It was later learned that the vehicle was not registered to either victim, but was used on occasion by Lassiter. The neighbor did not hear or see a vehicle arriving or leaving the residence.

Those wishing to share any information on this double homicide can contact the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office at 252-358-7800. The identity of the caller is kept confidential.

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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