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In murder trial, Donald Frye accused of beating, strangling Sheila Godfrey

SALISBURY — Jessica Lind testified in court Wednesday that the day she discovered the body of her mother, Sheila Godfrey, she had had a feeling that something bad happened to the 53-year-old.

Lind told jurors her mother was supposed to watch her two children on April 28, 2017, but she did not respond to text messages the evening before. When Godfrey didn’t show up to watch the children while her son-in-law did yard work, Jessica became concerned.

Lind and her husband, Jacob, went to Godfrey’s Lyerly Pond Road home, just outside Faith. A friend of theirs, Alcohol Law Enforcement Agent Jerry Dean, went with them.

While Jessica waited outside, the two men put on rubber gloves, walked into the house and discovered Godfrey dead on her kitchen floor. Rowan County investigators said Donald Lee Frye bludgeoned and strangled the grandmother to death. He was arrested about a week later.

Family testimony

Godfrey had retired from Novant Health Rowan Medical Center after 2o-plus years as a respiratory therapist. She had some back problems that prevented her from continuing to work. But a few times a week, she watched her two grandchildren.

Jessica Lind is a secretary with the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board and called Dean when her mother didn’t respond that day. Godfrey was also supposed to meet a friend, Bill Anderson, but she never showed up.

Lind paid her mother’s cellphone bill and used a cellphone locator app to determine that the phone was somewhere near Stokes Ferry Road. The Linds were headed to Godfrey’s home when Jessica spotted her mother’s car at the Speedwash Laundromat on Avalon Drive.

The couple pulled over to see Godfrey’s white Chevrolet Blazer parked at the laundromat. The windows were rolled down and Godfrey’s purse appeared to have been gone through and dumped on the floorboard. An empty pill bottle was in the passenger’s seat along with a book of matches and other items.

Jacob Lind asked a laundromat employee about the vehicle. He was told it was there when the employee arrived about 7 a.m. When Dean arrived, he spoke with a homeless man who said the car was there at least about 2 a.m.

Frye’s attorney, Tom King, asked Lind if it would surprise her to know his client and her mother had been in communication with each other. Frye was in her mother’s cellphone contact list, and they had communicated hundreds of times. Lind said that would surprise her.

Godfrey and her daughter had a strained relationship because of financial issues. Godfrey’s home was being foreclosed on and she was looking to downsize.

Dean recommended that Lind call the police to file a missing person report. Jacob Lind called 911, and on Wednesday jurors heard a recording of the call. The four-minute recording included the dispatcher asking about the last time they heard from Godfrey.

Lost and found

Jessica Lind called her mother’s phone and talked to the person who picked it up. Neighbor Jimmy Lambert had gone for his regular five-mile walk and heard a ringing phone. He tried to answer it the first time, but the ringing stopped. Lind called back and asked who was answering her mother’s phone.

Lambert agreed to stay put on St. Paul’s Church Road, near Yates Road, until the Linds and Dean could get there. Lambert testified that he found the phone in some weeds. He didn’t immediately see it in the ditch but heard it ring, he said.

He had a doctor’s appointment and when he returned, he made his usual trek around the area for his walk. He had seen Godfrey in the week before her death and she asked him if he would mow her lawn. He said he would, but it would be the following week. When he returned from his doctor’s appointment on April 28, 2017, he went to look at Godfrey’s yard to see how overgrown it was.

Lambert saw her dog, Katie, in the yard. He saw the screen door and front door ajar. Lambert let the dog inside and pushed the screen door closed. Lambert said it was unusual to him that the dog was outdoors because the dog normally stayed indoors. Lambert said he didn’t go inside the home, but let the dog in through the slightly opened door and then looked at the backyard. He said the yard was overgrown.

He then went home. Lambert said there were four houses between his house and Godfrey’s home.

When Salisbury Police Department Officer Jennifer Moreau arrived at the laundromat, she asked Dean if they had checked the house to see if Godfrey was there. At that time, no one had been to Godfrey’s home.

Once there, Jessica waited outside. Dean and Jacob Lind put on gloves. Dean testified that he told Jacob they should not touch anything and to wear gloves just in case. Both men noticed the door frame had been damaged as if someone had kicked in the door. There was also blood on the door.

As the men went to the edge of the living room, they could see Godfrey’s feet. They walked closer into the kitchen and saw her body face down in a pool of blood with a cord wrapped around her neck.

Both men testified that they believed she had been dead for some time because some of the blood was already dry.

Some family members looked away when photos of a bloody Sheila Godfrey were shown in court Wednesday. After a break, family members decided not to return so they would not see more disturbing photos.

The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. today.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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