Man pleads guilty to 2012 murder; gets life in prison

Published 4:54 pm Friday, March 13, 2015

A man who killed his ex-girlfriend in 2012 pleaded guilty to murder Friday at the Rowan County Courthouse.

Gary Cureton, 57, pleaded guilty to the killing of Joan Lark in January 2012. Lark was 49 when she died and lived in East Spencer.

Cureton, who lived with Lark before she made him move out around the beginning of 2012, beat her to death with a baseball bat in her home late one night.

Lark’s body was discovered the next morning by her six grandchildren, who she cared for.

That same day, police found Cureton still covered in blood and wearing Lark’s jacket.

Cureton also pleaded guilty to first degree burglary and robbery with a dangerous weapon in connection to the murder. His plea deal means he will spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole.

A main reason for the plea deal seemed to be to keep Lark’s grandchildren from having to testify at a trial.

Relatives of Lark, who worked at the Salisbury VA Hospital, spoke Friday at Cureton’s hearing.

Her mother, Kathleen Chambers, said every night she hears her daughter calling out to her for help.

“It hurt us so bad,” she said about her daughter’s death. But she told Cureton she does not hate him.

“I wish I could, but I can’t,” she said.

Joan, who was called “Joanie,” was one of Chambers’ two daughters.

Joan’s sister, Rosetta Chambers Miller, said Joan would do anything for anybody.

“She is still in my heart,” Miller said.

Lark’s daughter, Brandi Lark, spoke briefly before she was overcome with emotion. She also told Cureton she does not hate him.

Cureton made numerous threats to Joan Lark, many over the phone that she recorded, in the weeks leading up to her murder. District Attorney Brandy Cook read aloud some of the threats at the hearing, but Lark never got a restraining order against Cureton and told friends and family she did not think he would ever hurt her.

Cureton has had a long history of mental and physical health problems and was high on crack at the time of the murder, his attorney told the court.

Relatives of Cureton sat quietly during the hearing. Some of them began to cry when the judge gave the official sentencing.

Miller said the she just wants the ordeal to be over with and that the family “will get through this.”

“I will see my sister again,” she said.

Contact Reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.