Joseph Whitmire re-charged in first-degree murder case after grand jury decision

Published 12:23 am Friday, August 25, 2017

SALISBURY — A Rowan County man who had been charged in the death of 21-year-old Shawn Spry was charged with first-degree murder again Thursday, just days after a grand jury decided not to return a true bill of indictment in the case.

Joseph William Whitmire, 24, also known as Joey Portis, turned himself in to authorities Aug. 15, about two weeks after Spry’s body was found outside a South Link Avenue apartment. Spry had been shot to death, police say.

Whitmire was initially placed in the Rowan County Detention Center without bond. Accompanied by his attorney Karen Biernacki, he went before Judge Mark Klass to discuss a bond after the dismissal of a common law robbery charge.

If a grand jury does not return a true bill, it essentially means the jurors determined that there was insufficient evidence presented by law enforcement to believe that the suspect committed the crime.

The murder charge was dropped, but in a rare decision, Whitmire was charged again with first-degree murder. He made his first court appearance Thursday on the new charge.

A charge of robbery with a dangerous weapon was referred to Superior Court. Whitmire is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 25 on that charge.

The bail bond guidelines say that Whitmire could receive a bond of $10,000 to $100,000 for the robbery charge.

Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook asked the judge to issue a bond at $350,000 and house arrest on the robbery charge. She said she intended to submit the new first-degree murder charge to the grand jury.

The same grand jury that heard evidence in the murder case is expected to meet in mid-September.

Biernacki asked for a $10,000 secured bond and house arrest. She said Whitmire has no immediate family in Rowan County or North Carolina. She said she had just been appointed to the case by the capital defender’s office and had had no time to review the case but had only seen news accounts.

Klass issued a $100,000 secured bond, with the stipulation that if Whitmire makes bond and is released he will also be placed on electronic house arrest and is not to contact Spry’s family. He is also not to possess any firearms.

Biernacki said it is unlikely that her client will be able to post bond and he cannot afford the fees associated with electronic house arrest. The judge waived the fee.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.