Prosecution builds murder case


Caleb Elijah Wardett


Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

NASHVILLE — Caleb Wardrett’s murder trial enters its second day today after opening Tuesday with a marathon day of testimony from the state’s witnesses.

Tuesday’s daylong session was marked by testimony from 10 people, including officers from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Rocky Mount Police Department, an N.C. Medical Examiner’s Office official and residents living on and around Carrol Avenue, where Wardrett is alleged to have fatally shot Anthony Howard. The day opened with testimony from one of the first people to discover Howard’s body and the car near which his body was found on Rick Boone Road on Dec. 24, 2015.

The man’s testimony was followed by testimony from Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigator Rhonda Coyne. Coyne explained her investigation process during her testimony, including her extensive use of photos to document the scene. The jury silently examined each picture after each was discussed.

Detective Dean Woody of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office also testified for the state, explaining how a missing person report from the Rocky Mount Police Department involving Howard led the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to believe the car and body found on Rick Boone Road might have been related to that missing person report. This eventually led to testimony from Rocky Mount police Officer Robert Lupton and Cpl. Thomas Meadows, Rocky Mount police crime scene investigator.

Both officers testified that they investigated the crime scene at Carrol Avenue while Meadows testified also about his investigation of the car. That testimony brought one of the most surprising moments of the day when Wardrett’s lawyer, Damian Tucker, asked if any of the fingerprints found in and on the car matched those of Wardrett. Meadows said none of the fingerprints matched Wardrett’s fingerprints.

DNA testing also was raised by both sides during Meadows’ testimony, but neither the prosecution nor the defense asked about DNA matches.

Law enforcement officers were not the only figures to testify Monday in Wardrett’s trial. N.C. Medical Examiners Office Associate Chief Medical Examiner Kimberly Janssen testified about the findings from her autopsy on Howard. She said her investigation found Howard had died from multiple gunshots.

A small group of people who live on and around Carrol Avenue also testified, with Tucker taking full advantage of two saying they had not seen Wardrett in the area on the night of the shooting.

Wardrett’s trial continues at 9:30 a.m. today in N.C. Superior Court in Nashville with testimony from more of the state’s witnesses.