• 52°

Lexington man pleads guilty in 2017 murder of ex-girlfriend’s new beau

SALISBURY — Terry Eugene Watson will spend nearly 10 years in prison for the November 2017 shooting death of Isaiah Gillespie, who prosecutors said was the new boyfriend of Watson’s former girlfriend.

Watson, now 22, entered an Alford plea on charges of voluntary manslaughter and shooting into an occupied vehicle. He was originally charged with first-degree murder, discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle and misdemeanor assault on a female.

Superior Court Judge Anna Mills Wagoner sentenced Watson to five to seven years for manslaughter and 1.67 years to three years for the weapons offense. The assault charge, which stemmed from a report that he choked his ex-girlfriend, Joanne Powers, during an altercation the same day, was dismissed.

Wagoner said the maximum punishment for the offenses, had Watson gone to trial and been convicted, would be 24 years.

Challenges

Assistant District Attorney Tim Gould said one of the things that made the case challenging was that a number of witnesses had not been truthful, including Powers and her friend Christian Patterson, who were together on the day of the altercation. In addition, Watson’s sister lied about when he was home, Gould said.

After receiving information from a private investigator hired by Watson’s attorney, Darrin Jordan, officials determined there was more to the account that Powers initially gave investigators.

Salisbury police investigator Robert Ginn spoke to Powers again in 2018. The investigation revealed that Watson had been in contact with Powers by text message before the shooting. He went to her Laurel Pointe apartment and encountered Gillespie.

Gillespie drew a gun on Watson, and Watson fired a gun through an open car door. Gillespie was sitting in the driver’s seat, Powers was in the front passenger seat and Patterson was in the back seat.

Watson’s sister tried to corroborate his whereabouts at the time of the shooting, but his cellphone pinged in the area of Dan Street, not far from the Laurel Pointe apartment complex and not long after the shooting, according to investigators.

Powers at first told police that Watson shot Gillespie with a shotgun, but investigators determined it was a handgun. Gillespie was shot in the back. She also said Watson choked her and slammed her on the ground. Investigators said they could not find any evidence that Powers was attacked.

Patterson also had a gun and returned fire at Watson. And Watson’s gun was hidden inside Powers’ apartment.

Family speaks

The court heard from Gillespie’s stepfather, Ricky Watson, who is not related to Terry Watson.

“I just want to know why? This has devastated my family and their family,” he said.

Ricky Watson said he’s a Marine who served two tours in Iraq and saw men die, but he said he has seen more people die while at home. He said he’s forgiven Terry Watson but called the situation ridiculous.

“It’s really sad,” said Gerald Gillespie, an uncle of Isaiah Gillespie.

Gerald Gillespie said he grew up with Terry Watson’s parents and called them “good people.”

He said he does not hate Watson and that nothing that happened in court will bring his nephew back.

“The main thing is the killing has to stop,” Gillespie said.

Michelle Gillespie, a cousin of Isaiah Gillespie, said he wasn’t perfect but he was a “loving son who didn’t deserve this.”

“The fact still remains Isaiah is no longer with us,” she said.

Michelle said she sees Isaiah’s face when she wakes up and goes to sleep.

“It’s not OK to take a life and feel like it’s OK,” she said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

Comments

Local

Tillis says Trump will extend offshore drilling pause to NC

Coronavirus

12% of all Rowan cases currently active

Crime

Blotter: Concord man faces drug charges after hotel disturbance call

Crime

Rockwell teen charged with rape of a 14-year-old girl

Crime

Police: Charlotte man caught stealing funeral home employee’s truck

Local

Rowan Social Services director takes new job in New Hanover County; Heidrick to retire

Ask Us

Ask us: Will masks be required in Rowan County polling locations?

Elections

Political Notebook: Tillis, Cunningham differ on when to fill SCOTUS vacancy

Local

Local state trooper, firefighter returns home after Army deployment

Local

Blast from the past: Concordia Lutheran Church opens time capsule from previous century

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with damaging video camera, tresspassing

Crime

North Carolina man faces over 300 sex-related charges

News

Coastal flooding along Outer Banks closes roads

Nation/World

GOP hopeful Supreme Court battle will help shift election

Education

‘Better chance of succeeding’: Moody, colleagues reflect on tenure, retirement

News

Collecting garbage: Locals work to beautify High Rock Lake during Clean Sweep

Coronavirus

Salisbury man grateful parents’ story has impacted many

News

Celtics take big lead and hold on to top Heat 117-106

Business

Downtown Salisbury ‘moving swiftly’ with developers interested in Empire Hotel

Business

From fantasy to fact, Cherry builds a Hobbit House at his Treesort

Business

Biz Roundup: CSP seeking to hire 100 new employees for plant expansion

Coronavirus

Police, sheriff focus on education in addressing mask-wearing complaints

Education

Candidates for East Area school board seat have widely different views on renewal

Kannapolis

Cannon Mills’ whistle sounds again, brings nostalgia with it