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Accused killer rejects plea deal

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

TARBORO — In a strange court twist, one of the defendants in the double homicide of the former Leggett mayor and his wife rejected his own plea deal Monday and now plans to take his chances in court.

Keith Earl Williams, 26, of Tarboro was present for a short time on Monday afternoon in Superior Court in Tarboro as he struck down his plea deal with District Attorney Robert A. Evans of the Seventh Judicial District. Evans said on Monday that the defendant, through his counsel, had previously signed a transcript indicating a plea of guilty in connection with the deaths of then-Leggett Mayor Gary Skelton and his wife Jackie in September 2018.

Gary and Jackie Skelton were found dead of gunshot wounds late on Sept. 6, 2018, in their home on N.C. 33 N.W., about a third of a mile south of North Edgecombe High School.

Williams was arrested within eight hours of the discovery of the homicides and was charged with first-degree murder in connection with their deaths.

Assistant District Attorney Nancy Lamb said Williams had signed a document confessing to the murders.

“The defendant had signed a transcript to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, which would carry consecutive life sentences,” Lamb said Monday. “In court today, the defendant rejected that and withdrew his plea.”

Lamb confirmed that the original plea agreement would have allowed the defendant to avoid a potential death sentence as a penalty for the crimes.

The judge has set a trial date in this case of June 1, 2020.

There are two other defendants that will be tried in the case, Lamb said, but their cases have not proceeded as far.

Mitchell Brinson, 19, of Tarboro, also has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the double homicide.

A third defendant in the case, Dakeithia Nesha Andrews, 32, has been charged with conspiracy related to robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Family members of the Skeltons, many of whom had traveled from Georgia and Alabama for the hearing, openly wept as they left the hearing on Monday.

Deborah and David Fryar, who are friends with the victims and their families, were in the courtroom on Monday with family members and other friends.

“We were very disappointed for the family,” Deborah Fryar said. “They were hoping for something different. They came so far.”

Fryar said the family was hoping for some kind of resolution today, at least with this defendant.

“They will now have to face a trial that is a year away now,” Fryar said. “It is very hard.”

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