Salisbury man charged with 79-year-old woman’s murder says cellphone location resulted in charges

Published 4:04 pm Wednesday, August 4, 2021

SALISBURY — Robert Singletary says he was charged with the murder of Judy Eller Hoffner because investigators pinged his cellphone in the area on the same day as the homicide.

Singletary, a 30-year-old Salisbury man, was one of two people charged with murdering Hoffner, a 79-year-old woman who lived on Wyatt’s Grove Church Road in the Gold Hill area. The other, Douglas Martin Patrick, is a 24-year-old who lives in Winston-Salem. Both also face charges for robbery, breaking and entering and possession of a firearm by a felon for the same incident.

Hoffner around 8 p.m. on June 10 was found dead with two gunshot wounds by a family member, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said. She was the widow of Ernest Ray Hoffner, who died in February. She had made weekly visits to see him at the N.C. State Veterans Home at the Salisbury VA before he passed.

Already jailed for an April robbery at a Cleveland Dollar General, Singletary spoke to the Post Tuesday in a phone call from the Rowan County Detention Center, saying he wanted to offer his side of the story.

“I’m no monster, and I’m not just going around killing people,” he said. “I’m just a man that’s trying to do right by his family … just a man trying to survive.”

Singletary offered different accounts of how Rowan County Sheriff’s Office deputies located his cellphone in the area. Singletary said sheriff’s deputies pinged a cellphone in the area that he previously lost. Later, he said it was possible he traveled through Gold Hill on the day of the incident because he works in construction.

“If I drove through Gold Hill, I didn’t pay no attention to it,” he said. “I never knew that it was against the law to travel.”

He also said a DNA test that could have tied him to the crime came back negative.

Maj. John Sifford of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said he could not discuss evidence in the case before it goes to trial.

Singletary said a history of breaking and entering crimes was a contributing factor to his arrest for the murder and that he’s been trying to do better. On the day of the Cleveland robbery, Singletary claimed he was celebrating his birthday and traveled to Richmond, Virginia, and that his wife could offer photos with timestamps proving his location.

“They just charged me now because I have a history. I haven’t been on the same type of stuff,” he said about the murder charges.

Singletary’s criminal history includes a 2017 conviction for breaking and entering vehicles, financial card fraud, being a habitual felon and larceny. In 2016, he was convicted of robbery and larceny. He also was convicted of breaking and entering crimes in 2011.

As Singletary spoke to the Post, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of the second man, Patrick, in connection with the crime. Singletary said he and Patrick are Facebook friends. An arrest report states that Patrick is a confirmed member of the Folk Nation gang.

Both men remain in the Rowan County Detention Center.