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Search warrant: murder victim Shawn Spry met accused killer to sell marijuana

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A Salisbury man who was found dead outside a South Link Avenue apartment complex was there to sell drugs to the man accused of killing him, according to search warrants.

Salisbury Police responded July 31 to 210 S. Link Ave. after a passerby found a man later identified as 21-year-old Shawn Spry lying on the ground, the victim of an apparent gunshot wound to the upper body. No firearms were discovered at the scene, but detectives did find a bullet and spent casing near Spry’s body, a warrant said.

According to police, Spry’s mother, Tomasa Furr, his sister and his girlfriend, Hayley Head, reported him missing about 8 a.m. Monday.

A few hours later, the police called Head and asked her to identify his body. Police have said neither Spry nor the man accused of his murder, Joseph William Whitmire, lived at that apartment complex. Whitmire, 24, who is also known as Joey Portis, lived with a friend, according to warrants.

The warrants were issued Aug. 2 and Aug. 4, days after Spry’s body was found.

Search warrants reveal a Matthew Taylor Childress, a friend of Spry’s, drove him to South Link Avenue to meet a black male to sell him marijuana. According to Childress, the meeting occurred outside the vehicle behind the apartment complex. Childress told detectives he heard a single gunshot and Spry never returned.

Childress left the area and later returned home. On Aug. 2, detectives further spoke with Childress, who told them he knew they were there to sell marijuana and Spry referred to the man as Joe. Detectives seized Childress’ cell phone because, according to him, it was used to communicate with Joe. When detectives checked the phone, all of the information from before Aug. 1 was no longer available.

A witness told detectives Spry was communicating with a man who had a social media account under the name Joe Portis. Detectives compared a jail booking picture of Joseph Whitmire and Joe Portis’ social media account and deemed them to be the same person.

A witness told detectives on Aug. 2 that a black male named Joe or Joey Whitmire and a black male named Travis Abbitt were driven on July 31 from a Faith residence to South Link Avenue, according to warrants.

Rowan County Detective Chad Moose, who applied for the search warrants, along with other Rowan Sheriff’s detectives, traveled Aug. 3 to 340 Adolphus Road where they believed Travis Abbitt to live. Detectives discovered Abbitt lived at the mobile home next to 340 Adolphus Road, which was his mother’s address. Abbitt was not home at the time, but was arrested four hours later when he returned to his mother’s home.

Abbitt agreed to speak with Detective Moose and admitted he knew Joe Portis, which wasn’t his real name. Abbitt said he also knew Shawn Spry and had known about his murder. Abbitt told authorities he was good friends with Joe and that Whitmire lived with him most of the time. Abbitt also attended Carson High School with Whitmire.

According to Abbitt, on July 30 he and Whitmire got a ride from his Adolphus Road home to South Link Avenue and that after about an hour Abbitt left, but Whitmire remained. Abbitt said he went home and the next morning between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., Whitmire returned to his home. Abbitt told detectives that Whitmire told him he saw on Facebook that Spry was dead and the post said Joe Portis did it.

According to Abbitt, Whitmire said he did not kill Spry. Abbitt told detectives that was the last time he saw Whitmire and that he himself did not own a cell phone. Detectives requested and received a search warrant to look inside 340 Adolphus Road to collect evidence that may have been there relating to the death of Shawn Spry.

The warrant does not mention a motive or what detectives actually found on Childress’ cell phone and inside Abbitts’s home.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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