Former cellmate testifies against Donald Frye
By Shavonne Walker
SALISBURY — According to a former cellmate, Donald Frye said he was haunted by Sheila Godfrey and admitted to selling her TV and other items to his crack dealer.
Eric Knabb, the former cellmate in prison on unrelated charges, said he believed Frye killed Godfrey in 2017.
Knabb appeared in court Tuesday in a Rowan County Detention Center-issued orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and leg shackles. Knabb said he only spoke to Frye in passing, except for one day in January. He wrote a letter to District Attorney Brandy Cook of his January encounter with Frye.
Frye is on trial for the April 2017 murder of Godfrey, who was found dead lying face down on her kitchen floor. Godfrey, 53, was supposed to babysit her grandchildren on April 28, 2017, but never responded to text messages and phone calls from her daughter, Jessica Lind, the day before and the morning of.
Lind would later discover her mother was dead and her Chevrolet Blazer was parked at the Superspeed Laundromat on Avalon Drive. Rowan County Sheriff’s detectives said Frye beat and strangled Godfrey with an electrical cord and stole her television, DVD player and lockbox.
Based on testimony and cellphone records, Frye and Godfrey knew each other and had been friends for some years.
Knabb said on the witness stand Tuesday that Frye spoke to him following a jail Bible study. The Bible study had wrapped up when Frye began to cry. Knabb recounted Tuesday that Frye said he was haunted by the death of a longtime friend — Godfrey.
Frye told Knabb the friend haunted him in his sleep, that the friend owed him hundreds and that he went to get it. Frye and the friend argued, Knabb said, because she wanted to give him half of the money, but Frye wanted it all. Knabb recounted that Frye said he took the friend’s television, DVD player and other items. Frye said he sold the friend’s belongings to his crack dealer.
After his letter to the district attorney, Knabb spoke with Rowan County Sheriff’s Office investigators as well as a private investigator hired by Frye’s attorney, Tom King.
King then asked Knabb if he gave those statements because he hoped to get a reduced sentence in his case. Responding, Knabb said he didn’t want to spend a long time in prison for the breaking and entering charges for which he was serving time, but that had nothing to do with the murder case.
District Attorney Cook asked Knabb if her office promised him anything in exchange for his testimony. Knabb said Cook’s office had not.
Knabb said Frye never mentioned a murder weapon, why the friend owed him money and never actually said that he killed Godfrey. Knabb also said he didn’t know that Godfrey was the friend.
Also during Tuesday court proceedings, jurors heard the testimony of FBI agent Michael Sutton, who analyzes cellphone data and can calculate when a phone “pings” to a cell tower.
Based on his analysis, Sutton determined that Frye was around the Yates Road area sometime around 7:45 p.m. on April 27, 2017. That is about about a mile from Godfrey’s Lyerly Pond Road home.
About an hour later, the cell phone pinged on a tower in the Kannapolis area. Frye lived in a mobile home behind a pornographic shop his father owned in Kannapolis.
Then, sometime between 9:54 p.m. and 10:51 p.m., his phone was in the area of Landis, FBI agent Sutton said. About an hour later Frye’s phone was near the Salisbury/East Spencer area.
The cellphone pinged near the Shell gas station of East Innes Street and Walmart at 11:05 p.m.
He received multiple calls between 11:31 p.m. and 11:46 p.m., around the same time that a woman named Sarah Wetter said she and Frye exchange calls about picking him up.
Wetter, who had been staying at Frye’s home in exchange for drugs, allegedly dropped him off near Lyerly Pond Road on April 27 and went shopping before picking him up.
After midnight, Frye’s phone pinged near Avalon Drive, the Shell gas station and Walmart. Wetter said Frye initially told her to pick him up at the laundromat, then changed it to the Shell gas station.
According to Sutton, between 1:11 a.m. and 3:34 a.m., the cellphone’s location changed from Stokes Ferry Road to Kannapolis.
Forensic scientists on Tuesday also testified that some DNA was found on shoes that belonged to Frye. Rowan County Sheriff’s Office detective Ollie Greene said he collected tennis shoes from Frye after he was interviewed by him and detective Carl Dangerfield.
During a preliminary test, SBI Agent Erin Ermish found there was blood on the shoes. She didn’t complete tests on the shoes because it would’ve destroyed any chance to be tested for a DNA match by another scientist. There were only a few spots on the shoes that they believed was blood.
She looked at Godfrey’s jewelry that was found not far from the crime scene, but it didn’t appear to contain blood. So, Ermish said she did no further tests. She tested a watch that belonged Frye but found no blood on it.
The trial resumes today at 9:30 a.m.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.
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