Jurors out of court as Earnhardt's videotaped confession plays
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Robert Douglas Earnhardt told a detective in a taped interview he shot his stepfather, Billy Elmore, after Elmore raised a gun and pointed it toward Earnhardt’s mother, Patty Elmore.
Earnhardt is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Billy Tommy Elmore, who prosecutors say was shot Sept. 17, 2009, at the home he had shared with his estranged wife, Patty Kesler Earnhardt Elmore, at 165 Leisure Lane.
Jurors were dismissed early Wednesday afternoon so the judge and attorneys could watch the videotaped interview.
Assistant District Attorney Barrett Poppler told the judge, outside the presence of jurors, he intended to play a portion of the video.
Poppler said there were some statements made on the video that could cast both Billy Elmore and Robert Earnhardt in an unfavorable light.
Superior Court Judge Kevin Bridges said before he could consider allowing only a portion of the video to be played, he first must watch the entire video, which was nearly two hours long.
Earnhardt said during the interview with Rowan County Sheriff’s Detective Jason Owens a day after the shooting that he had shot his stepfather in defense of his mother.
Earnhardt told Detective Owens that first Tiffany Barbee and then Billy Elmore repeatedly struck his mother with their fists.
Earnhardt said in the video he made his way to where his mother, Barbee and Billy Elmore were. He said he didn’t know he’d shot Barbee. He said he fired a warning shot in the direction of a vacant lot across the street.
“I had no reason to shoot her,” he told Owens in the video.
Earnhardt said he had about three shells in his hand after the “warning” shot, but he didn’t know what type they were — buckshot or slugs.
Sheriff’s Detective Chad Moose testified earlier in the day that Earnhardt wasn’t sure whether he fired the buckshot first and then reloaded with a slug.
Earlier testimony revealed Barbee was shot with buckshot and Billy Elmore with a slug.
Earnhardt said it was instinctual to shoot after he saw what he believed to be a gun that Billy Elmore had aimed at Patty Elmore.
“I seen the weapon. Instinct kicked in,” he said.
The detective asked Earnhardt what type of gun Elmore had. Earnhardt said it didn’t matter and indicated his concern was for his mother.
Earnhardt told the detective the gun Billy Elmore had was concealed the whole time until Billy Elmore aimed it at his wife, Patty.
He was about 20 feet away from Billy Elmore and did not purposely aim for Billy Elmore’s head, but “just shot,” Earnhardt said.
“When he went to raise up, that’s when I shot him,” Earnhardt said.
Billy Elmore fell to the ground, dead of a wound to the head.
Billy Elmore and Tiffany Barbee had gone to Leisure Lane so Elmore could feed his dog. He’d moved from the house about a week earlier.
In the video, Earnhardt told detective Owens that Barbee ran to Billy Elmore, picked up the gun he claimed Elmore had and left in her Ford Explorer.
“We didn’t find a gun. There was never a gun,” Owens said in the video.
Earnhardt said he knew there was a gun and he figured Barbee ditched it somewhere between Leisure Lane and Bringle Ferry Road before she arrived at Tamarac Marina for help that night.
Barbee was shot in the wrist/arm area and was bleeding when she got to Tamarac. She testified earlier this week she was in and out of consciousness before managing to get to Tamarac.
“I don’t believe that Tiffany, after being shot, when she’s only got one hand, is going to be concerned with a gun,” Owens told Earnhardt.
“I know there was one,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt told a detective the night of the shooting that he was assaulted by “them” the day before. He never specified with the detective who he meant.
In the taped interview, Earnhardt told a detective that Tiffany Barbee, Billy Elmore and his son, Brian Maynor, “jumped” him the day before the shooting.
“All three of them jumped on me,” Earnhardt said in the video. “They said when they got the chance, they were going to kill me.”
Earnhardt talked about other matters before the shooting during the taped interview. He also mentioned suffering a heart attack not long before the shooting. The detective told Earnhardt he was too young to have had a heart attack.
He also told the detective he’d known Billy Elmore since the 1990s when they were neighbors. Earnhardt was the one who introduced Billy Elmore to his mother, Patty.
Earnhardt said in the taped interview that Billy Elmore was “messed up on cocaine.”
Earlier in the day, jurors heard from Earnhardt’s former girlfriend, Ashley Brumbaugh Jenkins, who said during the time the two dated in 2005-06, Earnhardt told her on more than one occasion he “wished Billy Elmore was dead and he would do it once he could find a way to get away with it.”
Jenkins, who is married now, said Earnhardt became upset about the alleged physical abuse his mother endured at the hands of her husband.
Earnhardt never acted on those feelings while the two dated, Jenkins said.
Jenkins gave a statement to authorities after the shooting about this information at the request of Tiffany Barbee.
The judge said he would allow the attorneys an opportunity to argue concerning use of the video once they return today. The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.