Detective testifies that suspect detailed shooting of stepfather
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A Rowan County man on trial for first-degree murder admitted to a detective he shot his stepfather, according to testimony Wednesday in Rowan County Superior Court.
Rowan County Sheriff’s Deputy W.T. Basinger testified in court Wednesday morning that when he arrived on the scene at 165 Leisure Lane on Sept. 17, 2009, Robert Douglas Earnhardt told him there wasn’t any other suspect and he was the one who shot Billy Tommy Elmore.
Jurors also heard from neighbors who said they heard two gunshots that day.
Earnhardt is also on trial for assault with deadly weapon inflicting serious injury for allegedly shooting a second victim, Tiffany Marie Barbee. She was wounded in the left arm and hand.
Barbee is the girlfriend of Billy Elmore’s son and drove Elmore to the house that day.
Earnhardt is the son of Patty Kesler Earnhardt Elmore, the estranged wife of Billy Elmore.
Basinger, the sheriff’s deputy, said he was initially dispatched to a disturbance call and while he was en route the 911 dispatchers notified him gunshots had been fired.
He said once he pulled up to the house, there appeared to be one person on the ground and two or three others sitting near the house — one of them Robert Earnhardt.
The deputy asked Earnhardt if he was injured. He said no. After Earnhardt told the deputy he shot Elmore, the deputy asked him to stand and he escorted Earnhardt to his patrol car.
Basinger said Earnhardt complied with his requests.
The officer said he let Earnhardt sit with his feet outside because Earnhardt said he felt sick.
When the deputy realized Billy Elmore was dead, he told dispatchers to let fire and EMS know they didn’t need to respond.
“He had been shot in the back of the head,” Basinger said.
The 12-gauge shotgun, a Harrington & Richardson, was found on a table outside the home in plain view, Basinger told the court.
Basinger also saw some empty beer cans on the lawn along with some spent shotgun shells and some that had not been fired.
One neighbor, Mary Ann Lane, said after the shots were fired, she and others heard loud screaming and what sounded like women wailing.
Lane lives on Sapona Drive, which is behind the Leisure Lane home where the shooting occurred.
Another neighbor, Gail Woodman, said she also heard gunshots.
Woodman lives around the corner from where the incident occurred at Sportsman Drive about 50 to 60 feet away.
At the time of the incident, her home and the home at Leisure Lane was buffered by some trees. The trees have since been cleared.
She couldn’t see what was going on, but she said she could hear an argument involving a male and female voice. The conversation was indistinct, but she knew it was a man and woman. She also heard two gunshots. Woodman and her daughter were at home and hid in the bathroom after the gunshots. She heard the first shot and then just seconds later the second shot.
“A few seconds later I thought I heard someone screaming,” Woodman said.
Sheriff’s Detective David Earnhardt narrated for the court a video he took of the crime scene.
He said by the time he arrived, it was dark and he had to use his flashlight while videoing.
The video, he said, showed the victim on the front lawn. Near the victim was a torn bag of dog food and some eyeglasses.
Detective Earnhardt began talking about the blood and other body tissue that was splattered on a nearby tree, child’s toy car and on the victim.
Robert Earnhardt’s attorney, Jay White Sr., of Concord took issue with the detective providing testimony about blood spatter. A lengthy discussion began between White, Rowan District Attorney Brandy Cook, Assistant District Attorney Barrett Poppler and Superior Court Judge Kevin Bridges of Stanly County, about whether the detective should be classified as an expert witness in blood identification.
While the jury left the courtroom, the attorneys discussed the issue.
White wanted to know what type of expertise the detective had on identifying tissue and other evidence from the victim’s body.
The detective was questioned about characteristics of blood.
Detective Earnhardt said to his knowledge none of the blood or other body tissue was tested to positively identify it as blood.
The judge decided to allow the detective to provide a lay opinion, not as an expert.
Jurors are expected back at 9:30 a.m. today.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.