Woman pleads guilty to second-degree murder

  • Posted: Saturday, December 8, 2012 12:20 a.m.
Willie Woodard
Willie Woodard

SALISBURY — With a handful of tissues, Della Woodard blotted her eyes Friday afternoon and described to a superior court judge life after her son was stabbed to death in December 2009.

“I never would have claimed him to be a saint — that’s not human,” she said. “But he deserved to live.”


Elizabeth Fesperman Whitley pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Friday in the stabbing of 30-year-old Willie Woodard.

Whitley was sentenced to no less than 10 years in prison up to a maximum of nearly 12 years. She will receive credit for three years spent in Rowan County jail.

Prosecutors painted the picture of a volatile relationship between Whitley and Woodard, who lived together in a mobile home off Highland Park Drive near Hurley School Road.

Authorities said Woodard was known to stand near Walmart on Arlington Street with a sign asking for donations.

By night, the couple drank heavily, attorneys said.

On Dec. 15, 2009, officers were called to a reported self-inflicted stab wound. Both had been drinking.

Woodard was found stabbed in the chest. Blood was on the couple’s mattress, which was on the floor, and on a knife and nearby bathrobe.

In final comments Friday afternoon in Rowan County Superior Court, Whitley maintained she did not stab her companion.

But she didn’t save him, she said.

“I loved him, too,” Whitley said, crying. “And I miss him everyday, too.”

Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook opened the plea hearing by outlining her case.

Cook told the court investigators found blood on items throughout the home and?Whitley’s statement to officers afterward was filled with inconsistencies.

Special Superior Court Judge Craig?Croom, of Wake County, accepted the agreement. The hearing lasted about 40 minutes.

Before she was led away by officers, Whitley kissed her hand and held it out to a small group of family members.

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.

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