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Jury gets Earnhardt murder charge

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — The jury will begin deliberations in the murder trial of Robert Douglas Earnhardt on Wednesday.
Jurors heard closing arguments today.
After finishing his instructions, Superior Court Judge Kevin Bridges dismissed the jury at 4:45 p.m. so they could choose a foreperson.
He then told attorneys of his intent to recess until after the Christmas holidays.
After about 15 minutes, he recalled the jury and gave them the news, admonishing them not to deliberate or discuss the case until the court reconvenes.
The Rowan County Courthouse will be closed Monday and Tuesday.
Earnhardt is charged with first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, resulting from the Sept. 17, 2009, shooting in which Billy Tommy Elmore was killed.
The assault charge stems from the shooting of Tiffany Marie Barbee, who was with Elmore that night; she suffered a shotgun wound to the hand and arm.
Attorney Jay White began his closing argument just after 10 a.m., laying out the reasons why he felt jurors should acquit Earnhardt.
He said the jury should not find Earnhardt’s shooting of Elmore to be a case of premeditated murder or of excessive force.
“(Earnhardt) was not the aggressor,” White said. “… (Elmore) is the one who came to the house after he moved out the week before.”
According to White, Earnhardt maintains that he fired a warning shot and alleges Barbee stepped into the path of that round.
Earnhardt then maintains he fired again after seeing Elmore aim a shotgun at Earnhardt’s mother.
District Attorney Brandy Cook began the state’s closing argument in the afternoon session.
She said the physical evidence doesn’t match the defendant’s claims that he was defending his mother.
Among her observations was the lack of any evidence of the shotgun Earnhardt claimed Elmore was aiming.
She noted that a search of High Rock Lake at Tamarac Marina and the roads Barbee used as she fled the shooting scene failed to find the weapon.
Cook observed that Earnhardt claimed he was standing to the left, but that the wound to Elmore’s head was on the right.
“Please don’t leave your common sense on the front steps of this courthouse when you walk in here,” Cook said to jurors.
Read the full story of the trial’s closing day in Friday’s Salisbury Post.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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