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Date for killer's death set

By Scott Jenkins

Salisbury Post

A man on death row since 1993 for the brutal murder of a 20-year-old Rowan County woman is scheduled to be executed by the state Feb. 9.

Barring unlikely action by the governor or legislature to block the execution, James Adolph Campbell, 45, will die by lethal injection for killing Katherine Price and leaving her body in a western Rowan field.

His is one of three executions scheduled to take place at Central Prison in Raleigh on consecutive Fridays starting Jan. 26.

Authorities said Campbell kidnapped, raped and stabbed Price to death after she stopped her car along Airport Road and offered him a ride Sept. 9, 1992.

A monthlong trial starting in May 1993 ended with a jury taking two hours to convict Campbell. The jury deliberated three more hours before delivering a death sentence.

On Dec. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Campbell’s final judicial appeal.

“It was an overwhelming case of guilt, and given the brutality of this crime and his past record, the punishment was appropriate,” Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly said Wednesday.

Authorities said Price was on her way to pick up a friend in a mobile home park off Airport Road the morning of Sept. 9, 2002 when Campbell stopped her and asked for a ride.

Campbell, who was also living in the mobile home park at the time, forced Price at knifepoint to drive to a grain field off N.C. 150 in the Millbridge community, authorities said. There, he raped and killed her, then took her car and drove it for a day before burning and abandoning it.

Price was reported missing after she failed to show up for work the next day.

A resident discovered Price’s nude body two days after her disappearance near woods at the edge of the field. She had been stabbed more than 20 times in the face and neck.

The friend Price was going to see at the mobile home park testified that the two women met Campbell the day before Price’s disappearance as they walked through the community.

Campbell initially confessed to the crime, even telling investigators he had checked his watch and knew the exact time Price died, authorities said, but he recanted that confession after Kenerly, who prosecuted the case, announced he would seek the death penalty.

Campbell then claimed that a jealous girlfriend killed Price after finding the two of them having consensual sex in her car in the grain field. He stuck to that story after his conviction on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, two counts of rape, robbery with a dangerous weapon and burning personal property.

When Price was murdered, Campbell had been on parole less than four months after serving 12 years of a combined 50-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon, grand larceny and other convictions. He escaped from South Carolina custody in 1982 and sexually assaulted a Salisbury woman, authorities said.

Kenerly said he plans to witness Campbell’s execution, which is to take place at 2 a.m. on Feb. 9. Kenerly said seats are always held for district attorneys who prosecute cases, but they’re not required to attend.

“However, I believe that if I’m going to ask juries for this punishment, then it’s my responsibility to go,” he said. “I’m never glad to see anybody die. I’m always glad to see justice carried out.”

Price’s father, who lives in Rowan County, could not be reached by telephone Wednesday. Kenerly said John Price has tracked Campbell’s appeals and he expects him to witness the execution as well. Her mother could not be located for comment on Cambpell’s impending execution.

Campbell’s sisters, who spoke on his behalf in 1993, could not be located.

Gordon Widenhouse, the Chapel Hill attorney who handled Campbell’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, did not return a telephone call to his office Wednesday.

Campbell is eligible for a clemency hearing at which his attorneys could ask Gov. Mike Easley to change his punishment to life in prison, Department of Corrections spokesman Mike Stater said.

Aside from that, the only apparent way that Campbell could avoid death is for Easley or the General Assembly to impose a moratorium on executions, as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush did in December after a botched lethal injection in Florida.

Attorneys for Marcus Robinson, who is scheduled to be put to death Jan. 26, have asked Easley to stop his execution so North Carolina’s method of lethal injection can be studied.

A select House committee formed in December 2005 has studied issues related to capital punishment in North Carolina including accuracy and fairness in the prosecution of such cases.

The panel held a public hearing Jan. 4 and is expected to meet soon to make any recommendations it has to the General Assembly, which begins its next session Jan. 24.

Rep. Fred Steen, a Republican from Landis who supports the death penalty, said he’s heard no talk of Easley imposing a moratorium. And even if the select committee recommended one, he said, it would have to be introduced as a bill and make its way through the legislature.

Such a bill, even if successful, would have to be on an extremely fast track to help Campbell.

“I don’t think the probability of that is very likely,” he said.

Campbell is one of 167 people on death row. Three others were convicted in Rowan County. They are Frank Junior Chambers and William Leroy Barnes, convicted in 1994 of murdering B.P. and Ruby Tutterow, an elderly Salisbury couple, and Wesley Tobe Smith, convicted in 2002 of murdering 18-year-old Margaret Leighann Martin.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Contact Scott Jenkins at 704-797-4248 or sjenkins@salisburypost.com.

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