Christopher Washburn sentenced to over 27 years in prison for 2016 murder

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2018

SALISBURY — A High Point man has pleaded guilty in the 2016 death of Iraq war veteran Joseph David Walker and will serve more than 27 years in prison.

Christopher Brandon Washburn, 27, who has been in the Rowan County Detention Center under a $3 million bond since his June 16, 2016, arrest, accepted an Alford plea to second-degree murder and first-degree arson.

An Alford plea means the defendant does not admit guilt but does admit there is enough evidence for a conviction if there is a trial.

An autopsy confirmed that Walker, 37, was stabbed multiple times and his throat was slashed. His bedroom was set on fire.

Walker served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2007. He and Washburn were friends who met while they were students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Walker had been working for Delhaize Group and moved to the area for the job. He’d been in Salisbury only a few months before his death.

Washburn was sentenced to between 21 and a half years to 27 years for second-degree murder, a sentence that will be served consecutively with one of between five and a half years to eight years for first-degree arson. That is a total of 27 to 35 years in prison.

The motive

According to statements read in court, Washburn and Walker played a card game called “Magic: The Gathering,” a game they had played before.

The day Walker was killed, he and Washburn went to CiCi’s Pizza and then a comic book store near the restaurant. The two went back to Walker’s apartment to play the card game.

It’s believed Washburn got mad about losing the game and stabbed his friend, then dragged Walker into the bedroom, set a fire on the dresser and closed the bathroom door.

Washburn told Salisbury Police Department detectives that a neighbor named Tom came over to play the game and he left about 10:40 p.m. He arrived home about an hour later, he said. He said Tom stayed at Walker’s apartment.

Authorities said the apartment complex manager told them that no one named Tom matching the description lived there.

Washburn told police that sometimes his friend Walker wasn’t that nice. But according to statements by friends of Washburn, he was the one who wasn’t nice. He would get mad if he lost a card game to the point of banging his fist on the table, the friends told detectives.

Washburn’s cellphone pinged on a Verizon Wireless cell tower in the Salisbury area between 3:16 p.m. and 12:43 a.m. The next cellphone ping was in Greensboro at 3:59 a.m., about eight miles from his home.

Washburn sold a rare “Magic: The Gathering” card that had belonged to Walker and was worth $800. Friends said Walker had some rare cards that were worth more than $2,000 each.

Washburn told friends he wasn’t well off and that he was being kicked out of his mother’s house.

The Salisbury Fire Department was called to the Alexander Place Apartment complex at 632 Hamilton Drive for a structure fire. When firefighters arrived, they discovered the body of Joseph Walker on the floor of his bedroom.

A neighbor said she and her mother were up about 2 a.m. and heard the fire alarm sound. They didn’t think much of it because the fire alarms at the apartment complex often sounded for no cause. The alarm continued through the morning for at least two hours.

Police investigators found blood in the apartment, including on a tissue that contained DNA evidence linked to Washburn. A kitchen knife found in a sink is believed to have been the murder weapon, and it appeared to have been washed clean.

Parents’ statement

In a tearful statement, Carol Walker, the mother of Joseph Walker, spoke of how her life and that of her husband have changed since the death of their only child.

Walker said she and her husband had eaten breakfast the morning of their son’s death and ran an errand when they received a call from Salisbury Police Detective Travis Shulenberger.

He didn’t immediately tell her that David had been murdered but asked a few questions first.

Carol Walker recalled asking the detective if her son was OK.

“I remember feeling a piercing pain in my chest,” Walker said through tears. “I pleaded to God, not David; not my David.”

“It was true; our only child was dead,” Walker said.

She said she and her husband are haunted by the crime and knowing their son’s final moments on earth were agony.

Washburn said through his attorney, Darrin Jordan, that he had nothing to say in court.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.