Victim’s sister not satisfied with manslaughter conviction
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY ó A jury has found Robert Douglas Earnhardt guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his stepfather, Billy Tommy Elmore.
He was also found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, permanently wounding Tiffany Marie Barbee.
Earnhardt was charged in September 2009 with first-degree murder.
Following a four-week trial that included a three-day holiday break, Superior Court Judge Kevin Bridges sentenced Earnhardt to a total of seven years, 11 months at the minimum and 11 years and one month at the maximum.
Earnhardt was given 64 months to 86 months for manslaughter and 31 months to 47 months for assault. His time in prison for assault is to run at the expiration of the time spent for manslaughter.
He will receive credit for the more than two years he spent in the Rowan County jail awaiting trial.
Elmore was shot in the back of the head Sept. 17, 2009, at the 165 Leisure Lane home that he had shared with his estranged wife, Patty Kesler Earnhardt Elmore.
Billy Elmore had moved out of the home a week before his killing.
Heíd gone to the home that night, driven by Barbee, to feed his dog.
Rowan County Sheriffís Office deputies were responding to a domestic disturbance call at 165 Leisure Lane, not far from Tamarac Marina, convenience store, the day of the shooting.
Officials said previously Elmore moved out of the house because of ongoing domestic problems. He was found dead when officers responded to a call of shots being fired.
Barbee is now married to Billy Elmoreís son, Brian Maynor.
Early on during the trial, Rowan Sheriffís Deputy W.T. Basinger testified that Robert Earnhardt admitted to the officer he shot his stepfather.
Basinger, the sheriffís 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.
The 12-gauge shotgun, a Harrington & Richardson, used to kill Elmore, was found on a table outside the home in plain view, Basinger told the court.
Neighbors testified to hearing gunshots and screaming the night of the incident.
According to statements, Earnhardt was not aware heíd shot Barbee. He told the investigators heíd fired a ěwarning shotî in the area of a vacant lot. He was shocked when officers said his warning shot struck Barbee.
The night of the incident, Barbee jumped in her car and drove to Tamarac Marina on Bringle Ferry Road to get help.
Jurors listened to a 911 call in which Jo Black, co-owner of Tamarac Marina, went back and forth between the bathroom and the parking lot to await emergency personnel.
Black could be heard on the tape telling a screaming, crying Barbee she wasnít going to die.
Barbee was taken to a Charlotte hospital, where she later had reconstructive surgery on her hand but was still left with debilitating injuries.
ëGoing to kill meí
Earnhardt said his statement to investigators it was instinctual to shoot after he saw what he believed to be a gun that Billy Elmore had aimed at Patty Elmore.
In the taped interview, Earnhardt told a detective that Tiffany Barbee, Billy Elmore and his son, Brian Maynor, ějumpedî him the day before the shooting.
ěAll three of them jumped on me,î Earnhardt said in the video. ěThey said when they got the chance, they were going to kill me.î
Earnhardtís attorney, Jay White, contended that Billy Elmore had a gun that night and Barbee picked it up and ditched it.
Rowan Sheriffís Detective Chad Moose told the court he performed a search the next day, driving from Leisure Lane to Tamarac Marina. He testified that he drove a distance, got out of his patrol car, searched the road area and then drove further along the roadway until he reached Tamarac.
A water search of nearby High Rock Lake yielded no gun.
District Attorney Brandy Cook said in her closing arguments Patty Elmore had not testified to seeing a gun when her estranged husband arrived.
Billy Elmore was shot in the back part of the head, with the shotgun shell entering near his right ear. The shell exited through the front, left part of Elmoreís head.
During the trial, jurors heard from Earnhardtís 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 ěwished Billy Elmore was dead and he would do it once he could find a way to get away with it.î
Jenkins, who is married now, told the court Earnhardt became upset about the alleged physical abuse his mother endured at the hands of her husband.
Jurors told the court Thursday they could not reach a consensus. Jurors had been deliberating since Wednesday morning. By mid-morning Friday, they had reached a unanimous decision.
The court imposed a longer sentence as it related to Barbeeís injuries because they were permanent and debilitating, which were aggravating factors in the case.
Cook was appreciative of the juryís time and effort during the monthlong trial.
ěThe jury held the defendant accountable for his actions against both Billy Tommy Elmore and Tiffany Barbee,î Cook said.
She said her office sought first-degree murder and had enough evidence for a first-degree murder conviction.
ěWe believed we had enough present to the jury evidence to support first degree murder,î Cook said.
Jurors were instructed by the court they could find Earnhardt guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, or find him not guilty.
Rebecca Jean Jenkins, the sister of Billy Elmore, ěexpressed that she was extremely appreciative of our officeís effort in fighting for justice for her brother,î Cook said.
Jenkins addressed the court, reading briefly from a letter she wrote.
She didnít believe her brother was the man he was portrayed to be. Instead, she said, he worked to spend quality time with his wife, Jenkins said following court.
She said Elmore was tired of supporting his wifeís adult children.
Jenkins said she still feels the killing of her brother was intentional. She believes the intent was to shoot her brother and later make a claim of self-defense.
Her brother feared ěthey would kill him,î she said.
She believes Earnhardt shouldíve gotten more time.
ěThey chose to take his life,î Jenkins said in her letter.
Tried to get help
Earnhardtís attorney, Jay White, of Concord said it was a very long and difficult case.
ěThe state put on evidence for two weeks before we could put on any evidence and they clearly kept an open mind listening to our day of testimony,î White said of the jury.
He said it was not as simple as the state would have people believe.
ěEvery step of the way Doug was trying to get help from the legal system. Unfortunately it never happened,î White said.
Even minutes before the shooting, Earnhardt was asking for help from 911 and pleading with Billy and Tiffany not to come onto the property, White said.
Earnhardt has filed an appeal.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.
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