Families Awaiting Justice: Fifteen people in county jail charged with murder, waiting on trials
By Shavonne Walker
It’s been two years, one month and two weeks since Matt Goodnight and his family’s lives were forever changed. On the morning of July 23, 2013 he received a phone call from his father, Tony, informing him his aunt Shirley Goodnight Pierce had been found dead in her Kannapolis home.
Pierce, 62, had been beaten and stabbed numerous times and was discovered in her bathtub by her fiance, Chuck Reeves.
The same day investigators were trying to determine who would’ve wanted Pierce dead, 15 miles southwest of her Evandale Road home in Kannapolis, Marlene Postell Johnson spoke with a Huntersville Police officer about being named a suspect in Pierce’s death.
Johnson at the time was not a suspect, but was later that day developed as one by Rowan County Sheriff’s investigators. She was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Authorities would later add a charge of first-degree burglary.
Johnson was booked into the Rowan County Detention Center where she has remained behind bars since her July 24 arrest, which took place just 12 hours after Pierce was found.
Johnson is one of 15 people currently in the Rowan County Detention Center who are awaiting trials for murder. The oldest of those cases involves Damarick Lamar Harper, 20, who was arrested May 29, 2012, accused of killing A.L. Brown student Daniel Lee Cooper.
While a trial involving Harper has yet to come to fruition more than three years after his 2012 arrest, the murder suspect most recently arrested, Jayquan Kyon Hamilton, 20, has been held for about six months following his March 11 arrest and subsequent murder charge.
Hamilton is accused of killing Oscar Miguel Aguilera outside his Lakewood Apartment complex.
While not presently in the Rowan County jail, Khari McClelland, 25, has been charged with first-degree murder in the December 2013 death of firefighter Marcus “Marco” Kauffman. McClelland is currently in the N.C. Department of Corrections for assaulting a detention center officer in the Rowan County jail.
Two other inmates, Tramel Hart and Michael Teasley, although not charged with murder, are also being held in the Rowan County jail for involvement in the Kauffman death.
“This is something that stays embedded in my mind. Not a day goes by that Shirley isn’t thought of and remembered,” said Pierce’s nephew, Matt Goodnight.
Goodnight said his aunt had a big heart and a beautiful smile. She was also the type of person who accepted everyone for who they were.
“She would go out of her way to simply send an email, wish me a great day, and most importantly tell me she loved me. I will never get that again from her,” he said.
Goodnight said he understands the process, but feels two years is a long time to wait for a trial to take place. He said it is his understanding the state crime lab is the reason for the delay. He said if that is the reason the family is still awaiting justice, he believes the state of North Carolina should hire more qualified people and accommodate them with adequate pay comparable to surrounding states.
The Post attempted to interview Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook regarding this story, but she did not respond.
“I just want closure for my entire family,” Goodnight said. “This is something each of us will have relive once a trial does take place. The longer the wait, the more difficult it becomes.”
There’s been no significant activity on the Pierce case since Cook announced in December 2013 she’d seek the death penalty, if Johnson is convicted at trial. The same day, Johnson flung herself from the top bunk of her jail cell, falling onto her head and neck. She was rushed to the hospital and later transferred to another facility for treatment.
Detectives say Johnson believed Pierce was having an affair with her estranged husband, Ervin Johnson. Authorities say Marlene Johnson’s theories were wrong and the two were not having an affair. Court records show Marlene Johnson repeatedly harassed and stalked Shirley Pierce, provoking Pierce to seek more than one restraining order against Johnson. The most recent restraining order, court records revealed, expired about a month before Pierce was killed.
• Damarick Harper
Little to no activity has taken place in the Harper case since an August 2012 hearing determined the case would proceed as a non-capital murder case. Court records say Harper, was 17 at the time of the murder and thus under the age of eligibility for the death penalty. On June 6, 2012, Harper was indicted by a grand jury on first-degree murder. Harper remains in the county jail under no bond for first-degree murder and a $750,000 secured bond for robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Co-defendant Darius Smotherson pleaded guilty in April of this year to second-degree murder and was sentenced to over 33 years in prison.
• Reginald Javae Clark
Clark, 38, another co-defendant in the Cooper death, is also awaiting trial in the Rowan County jail since his June 14, 2012 arrest.
Detectives say Smotherson planned to meet Cooper to buy some marijuana from the teen. Harper and Clark went to Kannapolis with Smotherson to that meeting.
Clark remains in the jail under a no bond for murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit murder.
• Maurice Alexander Robinson
Robinson, 36, was arrested December 12, 2012, for the murder of Z&H Mart owner Hecham Abualeinan. Authorities say Robinson, along with Christopher Lee Watson and Kevin Lamont Canzator, planned to rob the store owner.
Canzator and Robinson went into the store, bought candy and then left moments before Watson went inside. All three were caught on store surveillance video. Authorities say Watson pulled the trigger, shooting Abualeinan in the side of the head, stepped over the dying man and took money from the cash register.
Watson pleaded guilty in January of this year and was sentenced to life in prison. If convicted at trial, he would have faced the death penalty. Canzator pleaded guilty in April and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He also would’ve received the death penalty if convicted at trial.
• Wayne Eugene Hill
Hill, 57, was arrested June, 9, 2013, just a day after authorities found ex-girlfriend Roxanne Fowler Maddry, 48, dead at his Poplar Street home. Hill, a well-known China Grove karate instructor, was taken into custody in a wooded area near the Stanly-Montgomery county line where he’d wrecked his car.
He was taken to the hospital with self-inflicted injuries to his wrists, authorities said following his arrest.
• Kevin Rashee Toomer
Toomer, 27, was arrested August 28, 2013, and charged with the first-degree murder of Eric Maurice Feamster, 27. Toomer was arrested in Richmond, Va., a month after the July 28 shooting at Clancy Hills Apartment complex.
A Salisbury Police officer working security at the complex heard gunshots and discovered Tyson Gaymon lying in the breezeway with a gunshot wound to his upper body. Both Gaymon and Feamster were taken to the hospital, where Feamster later died. Toomer remains in the jail under no bond for murder, a total of $318,000 for a number of other charges, including possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver marijuana, and possession of a weapon by a felon. He’s also been charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill for shooting Tyson Gaymon.
• Andre Rynell Bonugda
Bognuda, 24, was arrested on September 16, 2013, an hour after Salisbury Police investigators discovered 19-year-old Abraham “Abe” Jenkins, who was shot multiple times as he walked to Livingstone College to meet his girlfriend.
Bognuda was arrested during an unrelated traffic stop at Knox Street where he was the passenger in a vehicle. He remains in the Rowan County Detention Center without bond.
• Jeff David Steen
Steen, 42, was arrested on November 21, 2013, just 16 days after he called authorities to tell them he found his injured grandfather, J.D. Furr, 87, and his mother, Sandra Steen, 62, outside their River Road home in eastern Rowan County.
According to Jeff Steen’s initial statement to authorities someone assaulted his mother and beat his grandfather to death. He said he had found them in the early morning and called 911.
Rowan County Sheriff’s investigators determined Steen beat his grandfather with a gardening hoe and tried to kill his mother, Sandra Steen, by choking and beating her. Court records say Jeff Steen, who said he had financial problems, stood to inherit the property if his grandfather and mother died.
• Khari Dwayne McClelland
McClelland, 25, was charged Dec. 9, charged with the attempted murder of volunteer firefighter Marcus “Marco” Kauffman, 25, who was shot in the back of the head following a break-in at the Chenault Road home he shared with wife, Maryann.
Weeks later, Kauffman’s family would elect to remove him life support, and the charges against McClelland were upgraded to murder. McClelland was initially jailed under a $5 million bond.
Authorities said Kauffman and his wife returned home the morning of Dec. 2 to find a blue car sitting near their home with the hood up. Kauffman took his wife to a friend’s home and returned to see if he could help the men with their supposed car trouble. Investigators determined once Kauffman realized the men had broken into his home, he called 911 and got into his car. He was shot as he was driving away.
McClelland is currently in the N.C. Department of Corrections for assaulting a detention center officer. He was sentenced Sept. 26 and expected to be released July 2016. He’ll return to Rowan to face charges in the Kauffman murder.
• Jaylend Daquann Turner
Turner, 21, was arrested December 7, 2013, for the murder of Marcus Kauffman. He remains in the Rowan County jail under no bond for first-degree murder, $3 million for attempted murder, and other related charges including breaking and entering.
• Tramel Devon Hart
Hart, 20, is the brother of Khari McClelland and faces a charge of felony accessory after the fact of murder in the Kauffman shooting. He turned himself into authorities December 12, 2013, and remains in the county jail under a $1.5 million.
• Michael Dwayne Teasley
Teasley, 27, is also facing accessory after the fact of murder in the death of Marcus Kauffman. He was arrested December 7, 2013, and remains in the Rowan County jail under a $601,500 secured bond. Investigators traced Kauffman’s laptop to Teasley’s Statesville home.
• Alisha Nicole Carlisle
Carlisle, 21, was arrested June 2, 2014, nearly six months after 15-month-old Malaya Heun, the niece of Alisha Carlisle, was rushed to a hospital. The toddler’s mother, Christy Heun, received a call from her sister saying “something was wrong with Malaya.” The child later died of septic shock.
Kannapolis investigators said Heun’s death was one of the worst incidents of child abuse they’d seen.
Carlisle, the sister of Christy Heun was charged with first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, felony child abuse and remains in the Rowan County jail under a $500,000 bond.
In July 2014, District Attorney Cook said she would not seek the death penalty in the case.
• John Travis Turner
Turner, 31, is the boyfriend of Alisha Carlisle, and is also charged with the first-degree murder of toddler Malaya Heun. He remains in the county jail under no bond and faces felony child abuse charges related to the incident .
• Kenneth Wayne Abel
Abel, 29, was arrested October 15, 2014 in murders of Antonio “Tony” Walker and James “Junior” Walker Jr. According to Tony Walker’s mother, Angela Walker White, who is also the sister of James Walker, three men men wearing gorilla masks came into their Spencer home on Oct. 3 armed with guns.
The masked men forced White, her brother and daughter, Jasmine, onto the floor. She said two of them asked for her son by name, went into his room and she heard gunshots. Tony Walker stumbled out of the bedroom and died in the living room. James Walker tried to defend his family, reached for a gun and was beaten in the head and then shot by one of the gunmen.
Abel remains in the Rowan County jail under a $3 million bond.
• Darius O’Bryan Abel
Abel, 25, the cousin of Kenneth Wayne Abel, was arrested Oct. 16 and remains in the county jail without bond for two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Tony Walker and his uncle James “Junior” Walker.
• James Michael Robinson
Robinson, 24, the third suspect in the shooting deaths of Tony Walker and his uncle James “Junior” Walker, was arrested October 22, 2014, in Roanoke Rapids. He also faces a murder charge. He’s being held in the Rowan County Detention Center under no bond.
• Jayquan Kyon Hamilton
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.
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