‘Tragic for everyone’: A look back at major crimes in Salisbury-Rowan in the 2010s

Published 12:10 am Sunday, January 12, 2020

By Shavonne Walker

In the previous decade, Rowan County has seen drug rings, sex crimes, murders, stabbings and senseless other crimes that have, at times, shaken the community to its core.

In some of the crimes, perpetrators picked their victims at random. In others, they knowingly perpetrated acts of violence. In every homicide, lives were cut short and the victim’s family, friends and others were left behind.

“I feel all murders impact the community. They get a lot of attention and cause fear that changes the way people think and act,” said Capt. Chad Moose, of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Division. “The community wants to know what happened and why it happened. The victim’s family and friends are deeply affected and they want justice and need answers. They want the guilty caught.”

It’s up to law enforcement to find the answers that families seek, Moose said. To do that, officers put every available resource into the investigation.

“You feel tremendous pressure to find the guilty and bring them to justice. I’ve met with families of these victims and you want to do the best job you can do,” Moose said.

He admits some cases receive more attention than others, but on all major crimes investigators all feel the same pressure.

“Each case is different and come with its own set of problems. Some cases are simple to solve, but still require gathering all the evidence you can find and doing the same work to get the case ready to put in front of a jury,” Moose said.

The following is a list that includes notable crimes that occurred between 2010 and 2019 that in some way impacted the Salisbury-Rowan community or led to local policy changes. Crimes are in chronological order and accompanied by the investigating agency’s name.


May 23, Salisbury Police Department

Terry Dwayne Lark, 32, was gunned down in front of his then 2-year-old son, Tavon.

Lark’s uncle, Marcus, answered a knock at the front door and found two men standing there. One wore a hockey mask and the other hid his face behind a red bandana. One shot Lark in the left wrist and abdomen and both ran from the South Clay Street home, according to Salisbury police. No arrests have been made, making it one of the oldest unsolved murders on this list. In 2019, Lark was added to the Salisbury Police Department’s cold case website.

Crimes like those in the cold case list can turn a community upside down, said Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes. So, it’s up to law enforcement to remain patient while seeking a resolution.

“We hear people say they know who did certain crimes. Many times we do too. We just don’t have the evidence to make the case — yet,” Stokes said.

Stokes said it is, “vitally important that people speak up and tell us what they saw and know.”

June 27, Salisbury Police Department

John Curtis Lambert was charged with the murders of Larry Thomas Andrews, Jr., and Mickey Wayne Jordan after an argument at the former downtown bar Benchwarmers.

Lambert was kicked out of the bar following the argument with Jordan and went to his girlfriend’s house and obtained a .45-caliber handgun. He went back to the bar and waited for the two men to exit. Lambert followed the two and shot them as they stopped at an intersection in Jordan’s vehicle.

Andrews died at the scene and Jordan died at the hospital nine days later. Lambert received two life sentences.

Salisbury Police detectives said during the December 2010 trial there had been “bad blood” between Jordan and Lambert.

Nov. 12, Spencer Police Department

Deyanira “Dee” Rios de la Cruz, 20, a clerk working at the Latin Mix convenience store in Spencer, was shot shortly after pushing a panic button. The gunman took about $100.

Rios, who had only been working for about six months and was working a shift for another employee that day, died at the hospital.

A reward for information leading to an arrest has grown to $8,000.


Aug. 31, Salisbury Police Department

Rigoberto Angeles-Resendiz, 21, of Kannapolis, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head.

Elementary school students and a bus driver found Angeles-Resendiz in his car with the door open on Foster Lane, off Morlan Park Road.

Quamaine Patterson, then 18, turned himself in a day after Angeles-Resendiz was found dead. Police said at the time that Patterson, a 17-year-old girl and a minor conspired to rob Angeles-Resendiz.

Patterson was convicted in 2013 and is serving 11 to 14 years in prison.


Ralph Wager at a Catawba Sports Hall of Fame ceremony.

July 17, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Ralph Wager, a former Catawba College soccer coach, was charged and later pleaded guilty to sex crimes with three children he coached or mentored.

The accusations against Wager came to light after a victim, who was about 9 years old at the time of the alleged incidents, told authorities about being molested by the former coach on several occasions, including in 1987 and again in 1989.

The victim searched Wager’s name online and discovered he was working with children in a Charlotte youth soccer league, which prompted the victim to come forward. The first victim’s mother made college officials aware of the allegations in the 1980s.

After the victim came forward and investigators began looking into the accusations, another victim was identified through an investigation by Catawba College.

In July 2012, New York investigators were notified about a possible victim who accused Wager of abuse in the 1960s when Wager was a soccer and swim coach. New York officials said the statute of limitations had expired in their case.

Rowan victims said the abuse occurred at Wager’s on-campus house, his office and at one of the victim’s houses.

Wager was sentenced to life in prison after accepting a plead deal in an April 2015 trial.

Dec. 10, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Z&H Mart store owner Hecham Abualeinan was killed when his convenience store was robbed on N.C. 150.

Christopher Watson and Kevin Canzator pleaded guilty in January 2015 and April 2015, respectively. Watson, who authorities say shot Abualeinan, was sentenced to life in prison. Canzator is expected to be released from prison in 2030.

A third man, Maurice Alexander Robinson, elected to have a trial and was later found guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2016.

Canzator and Robinson went into the store, left, and returned later, according to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. Watson then walked in, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, a Halloween mask and gloves. He was carrying a gun and fired a warning shot into the air.

Abualeinan reached for the phone and Watson shot him on the side of the head, investigators said.

The owner’s family, who lived at the back of the store with him, said they heard him yell followed by a loud noise. The Syrian native died at the scene. Investigators said Robinson planned the crimes and manipulated Canzator and Watson into carrying out the crime.


May 1, Granite Quarry-Faith, Landis and Rockwell police departments

In a case that began in 2013, Peter Kiever, of Granite Quarry, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four to 10 years in prison after being accused of posting nude photos of young girls on social media.

Kiever, then 19, was first charged in 2014 after Granite Quarry police initially began investigating on Oct. 7, 2013. That’s when police received a harassment complaint about Kiever’s use of Twitter, Facebook, Kik and other social media sites.

Investigators said they linked him to social media accounts used to post illicit photos through a computer owned by his father. They dated the earliest incidents to May 1, 2013, and said Kiever had stored photos on a thumb drive.

Kiever would spend nearly five years awaiting a trial before pleading guilty.

May 23, Salisbury Police Department

Tasha Nicole West began to turn her life around and had met someone she liked, but those were the very things officials say made on-again, off-again boyfriend, Tony Lamont Luther, snap.

Luther told police he “blanked” and “lost it.”

Luther said he grabbed for West’s hand. She asked him what he was doing, and he stabbed her in the heart. They were at his Calhoun Street apartment.

Luther used his blood-stained socks to write “TLT” in blood with a heart around it on an outside wall of the magistrate’s office before he turned himself in there. Luther said he thought West had moved on without him.

Luther was sentenced in 2015 to life in prison without parole.

July 20, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Cousins Daniel Redman and William Redman were shot and killed following a dispute at a home on Mountain Road in Cleveland.

Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook said the cousins drove with three other men to the home, intending to confront a man named Darren Sharpe. In the ensuing dispute, investigators say, someone from their truck fired on Roy Brooks, who lived next door to Sharpe. Brooks fired back.

After the shooting, the Redmans were driven to a Hildebrand Road home, about 5 miles away. But investigators said they were already dead by then. The mothers of the men said they felt the district attorney, who did not issue charges in the case, made a decision that was an injustice.

It was believed the dispute was related to a dog that may have been poisoned.

Defendant Marlene Johnson looks over at her family on the first day of her trial. Jon C. Lakey/Salisbury Post

July 23, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Shirley Goodnight Pierce, 62, was found dead in the bathtub of her Kannapolis home by her fiance, Chuck Reeves, who had not heard from her for some time.

Marlene Postell Johnson quickly became a suspect after law enforcement determined she had repeatedly stalked and harassed Pierce to the point that Pierce had to obtain multiple restraining orders.

Detectives said Johnson mistakenly believed Pierce was having an affair with her estranged husband, Ervin Johnson, who had served as Tuscarora Yarns president and chief financial officer. Pierce was the executive administrative assistant to Martin Foil, the company’s chief executive officer.

A medical examiner told jurors that Pierce, who was stabbed in the neck, died a painful death. Johnson was sentenced in 2018 to life in prison without parole for first-degree murder.

Brent Lyerly, left, and Jeff Moore bring Erica Parsons’ casket in and set up a portrait of her before her funeral at First Baptist Church in Salisbury in February 2017. Jon C. Lakey/Salisbury Post file photo

July 30, Rowan county Sheriff’s Office

Erica Lynn Parsons, a 13-year-old Salisbury girl, was reported missing in July 2013 by her adoptive brother, Jamie Parsons.

He told Rowan County detectives he had not seen his sister since December 2011. In the beginning, Jamie pointed the finger at his parents — dad, Sandy, and mother, Casey, as having done something to the girl. Throughout the next six years, the couple weaved a false tale of deceit that the girl was living happily with her biological grandmother.

It was later determined that Erica endured years of abuse at the hands of Casey, Sandy and the couple’s biological children. In 2014, Casey and Sandy Parsons were indicted and convicted after they received government-funded adoption assistance, Medicaid, Social Security and Food and Nutrition Services benefits for Erica after she no longer lived with them.

In September 2016, Sandy led detectives to skeletal remains in a grave in Pageland, South Carolina. An autopsy revealed Erica had multiple broken bones in various stages of healing in her nose, jaw, arm, a finger, several ribs and a shinbone. The autopsy also revealed that Erica was malnourished, had low bone density for her age and a pronounced growth deficit. She may have suffered from an untreated infection, sepsis or kidney failure. The girl’s body had been dismembered.

On Dec. 17, 2019, Sandy Parsons accepted a guilty plea for his role in Erica’s death and was sentenced to a minimum of 33 years in prison. That was several months after the Aug. 2, 2019, guilty plea by Casey Parsons, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and related charges. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Rowan Sheriff’s Detective Chad Moose said the Erica Parsons case was one that remained difficult until the end. The case began in the middle of two other major murder investigations — the Shirley Pierce murder and the Redman shootings.

Carolyn Parsons, with Tonya Guessford and Tonya Beemster on each side, walks onto the pier at the vigil for Erica Parsons in Granite Lake Park in August 2014. Wayne Hinshaw/Salisbury Post file photo

He said the Parsons’ case began as a missing child case, “but it quickly became clear that it was a murder investigation.”

Another problem was that Erica’s death occurred two years prior.

“So it began as a ‘cold case,'” Capt. Moose said.

The case received a great deal of media attention. That limited a lot of the normal investigative process and flooded the law enforcement agency with calls from people with opinions rather than useful information, said the veteran detective.

He credited Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten with absorbing most of the media attention and questions so that the detectives could focus on the investigation.

“We developed a strategy and the sheriff allowed us to stick with the strategy in the face of media pressure for information,” Moose said. “The Parsons case involved a child victim, which puts the pressure to find answers through the roof. Personally, knowing that the broken body of a child was discarded somewhere pushed me each day to drive the case forward. In the end, when we could finally recover Erica’s body, give her a proper Christian burial and bring the suspects to justice, I wasn’t happy about it. It was a case that shouldn’t have happened.”

He added that investigating cases like Erica’s don’t leave detectives with a feeling of victory.

“It’s more of a feeling of sadness with a feeling of satisfaction,” Moose said.

Nov. 5, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

On a cold morning, Jeff Steen said he found his mother, Sandra Steen, disoriented and lying in the driveway of her River Road home.

Rowan County investigators said Jeff Steen beat his grandfather, 87-year-old J.D. Furr, with a potato hoe, emptied Furr’s wallet and then attacked his mother by using a martial arts choking maneuver on her and leaving her for dead.

Sandra Steen survived, going in and out of consciousness all night. She tried to crawl back to the house but never got far.

Trial testimony showed Jeff Steen was to likely inherit his grandfather’s Richfield farm upon the death of Furr and Sandra Steen. Jeff Steen also owed them both money. He was behind on his car payments, his car insurance had lapsed and he owed back taxes.

Nearly four weeks later, jurors found Steen guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Dec. 2, Rowan county Sheriff’s Office

Marcus “Marco” Kauffman and his then-pregnant wife, Maryann, returned home from a family breakfast to find a disabled car at their Chenault Road home.

Kauffman asked the men standing by the car, later identified as Khari McClelland and Jaylend Turner if they needed help. The men said they did not, and Kauffman took his wife to a friend’s house.

Authorities say McClelland fired a shot into Kauffman’s vehicle as he tried to drive away. Kauffman was shot in the back of the head with his own gun, which had been stolen from his home, while on the phone with 911. His vehicle ran into a nearby cornfield and struck a tree.

Two others, Tramel Hart and Michael Dwayne Teasley, were charged with involvement in the crime and served their time while awaiting a trial.

Kauffman, a volunteer firefighter, died weeks later after his family decided to remove him from life support.

McClelland was sentenced to life in prison. Maryann and the Kauffman family said they chose to forgive those involved.


Jan. 19, Kannapolis Police Department

Malaya Heun, a 15-month-old girl, died after she became unresponsive at her mother’s Kannapolis apartment.

The mother, Christy Moore, was at work when she received a call from sister Alisha Nicole Carlisle, who along with Carlisle’s boyfriend, John Travis Turner, were watching the child.

According to a medical examiner’s report, Malaya had broken ribs, a broken collar bone and blunt force trauma to her abdomen. The trauma cut off the blood supply to her intestines, and necrosis set in. She went into septic shock.

In September 2018, Turner pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 6 to 10 years. He is expected to be released in 2021.

Carlisle was sentenced in December 2018 to involuntary manslaughter and has since been released from prison.

June 11, Spencer Police Department

Toney Ann Johnson, 34, was found stabbed to death in the yard near her parents’ Spencer home.

She’d been killed with a pocket knife by her ex-husband, Rodney Roberto Wallace, during a domestic assault. Wallace stabbed Johnson 28 times, according to statements read during his December 2014 plea hearing. The two had been a tumultuous and violent relationship for years and had a then-4-year-old son together.

Johnson had just been granted a divorce from Wallace in January of that year.

A neighbor who witnessed the assault thought at the time that Wallace was beating Johnson. The neighbor noted Wallace calmly walked down the street when she told him she would call the police.

He was arrested near Wrightsville Beach after he told his girlfriend he’d killed his ex-wife and wanted to see his daughter before turning himself in.

Wallace was sentenced to life in prison.

July 10, China Grove Police Department

Former China Grove doctor Orrin Walker, wife Abby and six others were accused of fraudulently filling 200 hydrocodone prescriptions for nearly two years.

Police said Abby Walker, who was a second-grade teacher at the time, would coordinate with other suspects who allowed their names to be used for the pick-up, payment and delivery of the pills to the Walkers.

Investigators said the group turned in 200 fraudulent prescriptions, involving 25,000 doses of hydrocodone. Orrin Walker was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to up to five years in prison for drug trafficking. His wife received probation. The others involved in the prescription ring also received probation.

Sept. 6, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Jennifer Merriman, 17, was killed at her Richfield home by her sister’s estranged husband, Montannez Moody.

Moody also shot Merriman’s aunt, Bernice Merriman. He later went on a crime spree in two other counties.

He drove to High Point, where he kidnapped a couple at gunpoint, dumped the man and took off with his girlfriend. The woman was raped and escaped from a wooded area in Edgecombe County when Moody passed out inside his car.

Moody was found dead of a cocaine overdose in a swampy area.

Co-defendants James Robinson, left, and Darius Abel, right,listen to jury selection proceedings in their trial on murder charges. Jon C. Lakey/Salisbury Post

Oct. 4, Spencer Police Department

Antonio “Tony” Walker, 29, and his uncle James “Junior” Walker, 43, were both shot and beaten during a home invasion and robbery that turned deadly.

In a February 2019 trial, Darius Abel and James “Mikey” Robinson were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the two deaths.

A third man, Kenneth Abel, who is the cousin of both defendants, accepted a plea agreement in September 2018 in exchange for testifying against them.

Investigators said the three went to the home to rob Tony Walker, who they believed had money from drug sales, but a struggle ensued inside a back bedroom. Junior Walker was shot and beaten with the butt of a gun when he tried to fire back at one of the suspects.

Angela Hill, Tony Walker’s mother, and her daughter Jasmine Walker had just returned home from a movie that night when the men burst through the front door.


May 21, East Spencer Police Department

Kejuan Dishad Lamont Sweat, 22, was shot while sitting in a car in front of his South Long Street apartment. His three children were also in the car. One of them, a 4-year-old, was also shot.

Sweat drove to the hospital for help and hit an exterior brick wall near the hospital. Salisbury police found Sweat in the car, which was riddled with bullet holes, at the corner of Annandale Avenue and West Henderson Street, across from the hospital.

They found the wrecked car riddled with bullet holes in the left passenger side door.

The 4-year-old was taken to a Charlotte hospital with non-fatal injuries.

Sweat was taken to the hospital and later died. His murder remains unsolved.


June 30, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Rowan County Sheriff’s deputies began investigating the death of 8-week-old Kingston Aistrop at a home on Van Street in Rockwell.

The infant — the youngest victim included on this list — was unresponsive when the mother, Amber Lane Scarborough, called 911. Detectives soon learned the baby died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Although the infant died in 2016, investigators weren’t able to bring charges against her mother until July 2017.

Scarborough’s boyfriend, Houston Ray McCarn, was also charged with first-degree murder. The mother, then 17, later admitted she and McCarn had smoked marijuana at the time of the baby’s death.

Scarborough was sentenced to at least 20 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and felony child abuse.

McCarn was sentenced in August 2019 to seven to nine years in prison after he rejected two plea deals in 2017.

Mya Miller, a family friend of Ferguson Claude Laurent Jr., talks to the media at the scene just after she heard that he had died.
Jon C. Lakey/Salisbury Post

Nov. 3, Salisbury Police Department

The Salisbury Police Department’s Special Response Team attempted to serve a “no-knock” search warrant at a house where an informant had reported buying drugs. When officers rushed in, resident Ferguson Claude Laurent Jr. shot at them. An officer returned fire, killing Laurent, who was 22.

The shooting sparked turmoil and a lengthy review by the State Bureau of Investigation. After the shooting, Chief Stokes announced the police department would implement a number of changes, including the suspension of no-knock warrants unless approved by the chief or deputy chief. After receiving a report from the State Bureau of Investigation, District Attorney Brandy Cook cleared Officer Karl Boehm of any wrongdoing.

The death of Laurent prompted calls for more training for police, more diversity within the department and a better relationship between the predominantly white force and the black community.

In a January 2020 interview with the Post, Stokes called the Laurent shooting, “unfortunate for our community.”

“It was difficult for the Police Department. It took on a life of its own and there were agendas that tried to use the situation,” Stokes said. “Laurent was a threat to our community. He, as stated in the SBI report, was involved in a Charlotte homicide and, locally, robberies on the street. We also knew he had been dealing drugs.”

Police Chief Jerry Stokes speaks at the news conference held at Salisbury-Rowan Utilities on Wednesday about the shooting death of Ferguson Laurent.

Stokes said the investigators used the drug charges as a means to get Laurent off the street, but Laurent chose to shoot at the officers, “who reacted bravely to the threat.”

“The situation was a tragic for everyone and no one won. Even those with the agendas never really got what they wanted, in my opinion,” Stokes said.

JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST Shequita Woodberry leans into the casket that holds the body of her 7-year-old daughter, A’yanna Allen, for a few last moments together before the funeral service begins on Sunday, December 11, 2016, in Salisbury, N.C.

Dec. 4, Salisbury Police Department

Sharod Raheen Mathis and A’yanna Allen were killed in the early morning hours. Salisbury Police investigators have said the murders were connected.

Mathis, 22, was shot outside what was then the Firewater Restaurant and Lounge. Hours later, someone fired multiple shots outside of the Harrel Street home where Allen, 7, was sleeping. Her grandmother, Shirley Robinson, survived a bullet wound to the leg.

Allen’s family, including mother Shequita Woodberry, and grandmother April Woodberry, have said they believe her killer will be found and brought to justice.

The young girl’s death is one that’s still plagued with questions three years later. No one has come forward with information that has led to an arrest. That’s despite an offer of a $20,000 reward.

The A’yanna Allen case continues to be a high priority for the detectives and the entire police department, Stokes said.

“As you can imagine, that case brings about strong emotion and a real desire to see it through to a prosecution by the officers,” he said.

Stokes said there’s been rumors and assumptions about the murder. Recently, Stokes said, he heard someone say the shooting of the Allen was random. It wasn’t, Stokes said adamantly.

“There are those in our community that know information but choose not to tell us,” Stokes said. “What has us so frustrated is we know who has the information but they are unwilling to help the case in any way.”


Jan. 12, Salisbury Police Department

Symone Marie Jones, a 19-year old transgender woman from Fayetteville, received non-medical grade silicone injections in her buttocks and died after going to the hospital.

The suspect — Kavonceya Iman Cornelius, born Kenneth Rudolph Cornelius, went by the name Kysha Wellington and the nickname Cinnamon — pleaded guilty in September 2017 to involuntary manslaughter. Cornelius was sentenced to 15 to 27 months in prison and has since been released.

Chief Stokes said Jones’s death was unusual in that it was the result of a black market medical procedure. He added the case was not the “typical” violence seen in Salisbury.

“I guess that makes it odd in our community,” Stokes said.

Sheila Godfrey

April 28, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Sheila Godfrey, 53, was found dead at her Lyerly Pond Road home.

Investigators said Donald Lee Frye beat Godfrey with an unknown object and strangled her with an electrical cord that had been ripped from a wall. Frye stole Godfrey’s car, which her daughter spotted parked at a laundromat the next day.

Investigators released surveillance photos that showed the man inside the Salisbury laundromat, a convenience store and elsewhere in the Kannapolis area.

A month later, investigators searched Frye’s home, which was behind a Kannapolis pornography shop his father owned. The search yielded a crack cocaine pipe, other drug paraphernalia and a green family reunion T-shirt that Frye was seen wearing on store surveillance video.

In April 2019, Frye was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a two-week trial.

Frye killed Godfrey, who was a widow, to fuel his crack cocaine habit. He admitted to Rowan detectives before his arrest that he had smoked crack every day in the seven months leading up to the murder.

“During major cases that include murders, you have to see and hear horrible things about the crime, run through all the evidence and put together the best case you can and provide it to the district attorney,” Capt. Moose said.

Even though investigators believe they’ve been thorough in their investigation, “you always wonder if you missed something; even after the bad guy is in jail, you keep collecting evidence and continue to make the case stronger,” Moose said.

“After all the work, long hours and pouring a little of your soul into each case you have to trust your investigation and hope a jury will see it your way and deliver justice,” he said.

JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST FILE PHOTO – Jalen Cook is taken to the magistrate’s office late on Aug. 1, 2017. He was charged with two counts of murder, stemming from a shooting on West Fisher Street.

July 29, Salisbury Police Department

Daquan Robertson, 23, and friend Anthony Gill, 22, were shot and killed after a shootout in the 100 block of West Fisher Street in downtown.

Gill died later at the hospital and Robertson was found dead at the scene in front of a church at the corner of South Church and West Fisher streets. Two others were shot, treated and released from area hospitals.

Jalen Lamont Cook was charged with two counts of murder and other gun-related offenses. Zakelo Duren was charged with inciting a riot. Cook was convicted in June 2019 of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to six to eight years. He would receive credit for the two years he spent in the county jail awaiting a trial. Duren was convicted and served three months in prison.

Stokes said the double murder had an impact on the community and the sense of justice.

“That was not an easy case for the prosecution. Our detectives built a good circumstantial case, there was a lot of good evidence and I didn’t see anything lacking in their investigation, but it came down to there being a possibility a jury would see it as self defense,” he said. “I think the plea bargain was reached because there was that possibility the case would have been lost totally had it gone to trial. Sometimes, plea bargaining isn’t understood by the community as well as those of us who work within the justice system.

“Cook’s homicide came about as a result of the best predictor of a violent act in Salisbury, which is a preceding violent act.”


March 26, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Melanie Anita Clark, 62, was shot multiple times at her Dulin Avenue home.

Authorities said her grandson, Joshua Dimitri Clark, stole his grandmother’s Wells Fargo bank card and threatened her with a handgun. He was arrested at a home in Rockwell known for drug activity.

Two others were charged with identity fraud after investigators said they were seen on an ATM surveillance video using Clark’s bank card.

Clark, a longtime Freightliner employee, had been looking forward to retirement, her friends said at the time.

Witt Darnell Alexander, left, is joined by social justice advocate John C. Barnette at a news conference to discuss his arrest in the 2018 murder of Mariah Turner and the dismissal of the charges in September after 444 days in jail. Alexander is holding his son. Shavonne Walker/Salisbury Post

June 24, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Mariah Turner, 25, was shot at her parent’s North Long Street home during a home invasion. Someone shot the pregnant Turner as she was trying to close the door.

Witt Darnell Alexander Jr. was charged in her murder, but in September 2019 the Rowan County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the first-degree murder and other charges against him. Officials obtained a surveillance video of Alexander at the Epicentre in Charlotte the same day as the shooting.

He was released after serving 14 months in the county jail awaiting trial. No other arrests have been made.

July 12, Salisbury Police Department

Just before closing time, a gunman went into Harris Teeter with the intent to rob the grocery store. One woman and four men were inside the store at the time of the robbery. One person was the spouse of an employee.

Police charged Cody Schimmels with the robbery.

According to court records and warrants, Schimmels allegedly ordered employees to open the store safe, but they were not authorized or able to do so.

Hostages told police that Schimmels threatened violence because they were not cooperating during the robbery.

A member of the police department’s special response team fired a shot that disabled Schimmels, who police said was holding a hostage at gunpoint.

Schimmels was struck in the face, taken to the hospital and released two months later.

He remains in the Rowan County jail under a $750,000 secured bond and is awaiting a trial.


January 27, Salisbury Police Department and Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Salisbury police were called to the Country Cupboard convenience store on a report that someone had been shot. Once there, they found 25-year-old Lakyn Jade Bailey dead inside a vehicle that was reportedly driven by Jason Donald Cranfill.

Investigators determined she had been shot on Apple Road, outside of the city limits, and that her body driven to the store. Bailey had been involved in illegal drug sales at a motel in Statesville, authorities said. Her death is believed to be the result of a drug deal that turned violent.

Joshua Wade Kennedy was charged with murder and attempted robbery in the case. He also remains in jail without bond.

James Christopher Rife was the second person charged with her murder. But Rife in September died while in his county jail cell. No foul play was suspected.

May 6, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Michael Earley, 19, was found dismembered and his body partially burned in the Rockwell area.

He was buried in a shallow grave behind the home of the teen accused of killing him, Carlos Rosas Jr. Two other teens, Madison Drew Harrington and Lauren Grimes, were charged with accessory after the fact.

Earley, who Rowan County Sheriff’s investigators said went to Rosas’ home to sell a small quantity of marijuana, got into an argument with Rosas. Earley was beaten with a baseball bat.

His family and friends grew upset when Harrington posted a $500,000 secured bond and was released from jail.

Earley’s mother, Jessica, said she organized a protest against Harrington’s release and to seek justice for her son’s brutal murder. She also blamed law enforcement for Harrington’s release.

Even after what they deem a successful investigation, Moose said, there will be critics.

“You take the good and the bad from each case and use it to make the next investigation better,” Moose said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.