Murder case ends in mistrial


Caleb Elijah Wardett


Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A mistrial has been declared in the murder trial of a Nashville man accused of killing a Castalia man almost two years ago.

Caleb Wardrett’s trial in the shooting death of Anthony Bernard Howard on Dec. 24, 2015, ended Tuesday in a mistrial after Wardrett threw a Bible across the courtroom.

Wardrett’s trial started Monday in N.C. Superior Court in Nashville, more than a year and a half after Wardrett was arrested in connection to Howard’s death.

Wardrett’s trial had been scheduled for April 10 but was rescheduled only two weeks prior to the scheduled start date. 

The case started at 7 a.m. Dec. 24, 2015, when Franklin County deputies responded to a report of an abandoned car in a field off Rick Bone Road in Castalia. Howard, a Rocky Mount resident, was found dead near the car, leading police to deem his death a homicide.

A joint investigation by Franklin County law enforcement and Rocky Mount police led officials to take out warrants for Wardrett’s arrest in connection to the case. Wardrett was arrested without incident March 22, 2016.

He was charged with felony first-degree murder and felony possession of a handgun by a felon, misdemeanor injury to personal property, misdemeanor discharging a firearm inside city limits and misdemeanor assault by pointing a gun before being jailed without bond in the Nash County Detention Center.

District Attorney’s office officials were unavailable for comment on whether or not they will re-try the case.

This is the second time that Wardrett has walked free in a major case. He was acquitted in 2011 on an attempted murder charge in a case involving the alleged shooting of Tyrone Arrington. According to reports at the time, Arrington was shot Dec. 4, 2008, on Layola Avenue.

Wardrett also was accused of being the triggerman in the death of store owner James Holloman on April 24, 1998, but was never convicted in the case. Wardrett was tried in the case four times between 1999 and 2003, with each of those trials also ending in mistrials, including three hung juries.

He was convicted in 2000 of robbery with a dangerous weapon in connection to the armed robbery of another man near Holloman’s store only minutes before Holloman’s death. He served seven years on the robbery conviction.

Police said only months after his release in 2007, he was involved in an alleged shooting on West Thomas Street in Rocky Mount. He also was convicted in 2010 of a series of misdemeanors stemming from an alleged 2009 police chase. Wardrett spent three months behind bars on the charges.

 This story has been updated to include corrected information.