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Angel Arias pleads guilty to second-degree murder in death of Elisha Walker

By Shavonne Walker


SALISBURY — Angel Arias, a member of the Latin Kings gang, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to the 2015 murder of Elisha Walker, a transgender woman whose decomposed remains were found in a shallow grave in Johnston County.

Arias, 25, pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of second-degree murder in exchange for the court’s dismissal of a charge of stealing a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to 19 years to 24 years in prison.

There was little discussion during the Tuesday hearing about the nature of the relationship between Arias and Walker or details of Walker’s death. Investigators have said Arias and Walker were in a relationship for six to eight months and that Arias tried to break off the relationship. Walker was insistent on seeing Arias, investigators said.

Arias killed Walker to hide the relationship, investigators said.

Elisha Walker was born a man but identified and dressed as a woman.

Family members said Walker usually kept in contact with them by phone, text messages or social media posts on Facebook, but they had not heard from her since Oct. 23, 2014. Rowan County sheriff’s investigators began looking into Walker’s disappearance. Before she was reported missing, Walker was living on Celebration Drive, but she frequently visited a home on Hemlock Drive in the Westcliffe subdivision, located off Statesville Boulevard, investigators said.
On Nov. 11, 2014, authorities released details of Walker’s disappearance to the media to generate leads. On Nov. 22, Walker’s 2000 silver Pontiac was found burned in an open field in Sampson County, east of Fayetteville.
Rowan County investigators traveled to Sampson County to examine the destroyed car and developed several leads in the case. Detectives said Arias was a suspect in Walker’s disappearance.
Officials said Arias was living on Hemlock Drive at the time of Walker’s disappearance, but he had begun to spend a lot of time in Smithfield, which is in Johnston County just north of Sampson County. Detectives continued to investigate into 2015, crossing three counties — Rowan, Johnston and Sampson.
In February 2015, Arias moved out of the Hemlock Drive home and returned to Johnston County. He later told detectives he assaulted and murdered Walker at his Hemlock Drive home.
Rowan County Assistant District Attorney Greg Butler said in court that autopsy records show there were signs of asphyxiation and evidence of blunt-force injuries to Walker’s head and stab wounds.

In July 2015, Rowan detectives, with the use of a cadaver detection dog, searched the area around Arias’ residence on Hemlock Drive. Detectives found out that Arias was being held in the Johnston County Jail on unrelated drug charges. Detectives continued the investigation in Johnston County and identified a residence on Homestead Lane, outside Smithfield, as a possible location of Walker’s remains.

Walker’s remains were found in a shallow grave behind the home in Smithfield.

Rhonda Alexander, Walker’s mother, who was at Tuesday’s hearing, told Arias she does not hate him.

“I will never hate you. God allows everything to happen,” she said.

“I’m not the judge. This is just an earthly judge, but you have a spiritual judge that you will be judged for, and I just wanted you to know that,” Alexander said.

Alexander wore a silver tribute necklace with Elisha’s picture on it.

Walker’s sister Porshia Walker said after the hearing that Arias killed Walker for nothing. She said Elisha Walker’s name will forever live in this town and in other places throughout the world.

She said it’s been hard on her family, but they are in a better place now and the court hearing provided them with some closure.

Porshia Walker said the ordeal opened her family’s eyes to the fact that people need to “love one another, while we can.”

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.