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Defendants could face death in slayings of Leggett mayor, wife

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Leggett Mayor Gary Eugene Skelton and his wife Jackie Dawn Skelton were shot to death Sept. 5 in their home.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Prosecutors are likely to seek the death penalty for two Tarboro men accused of killing a local mayor and his wife during an armed robbery earlier this year at the couple's Edgecombe County home.

Keith Earl Williams, 25, and Mitchell Brinson, 18, have been charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 5 shooting deaths of Leggett Mayor Gary Eugene Skelton and his wife Jackie Dawn Skelton.

Gary Skelton died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to his death certificate. Police believe Williams shot him with a 30-caliber carbine, according to arrest warrants.

Jackie Skelton died of a shotgun blast to the face, according to her death certificate. Police believe Brinson shot her with a Remington 870 20-gauge shotgun.

Both Williams and Brinson have been assigned lawyers by the state Office of the Capital Defender in Raleigh.

Details of the slayings are so heinous that should they be publicly known prior to court proceedings, the defendants wouldn't be able to receive a fair trial, according to a successful motion filed by the state and ruled on by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Walter Godwin Jr.

Williams, of Daniel Street in Tarboro, was released from prison on Aug. 28 after serving a year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon in connection to a 2016 shooting in Rocky Mount, according to the state Public Safety Department. Williams has also been convicted of larceny and assaulting a child.

Brinson, of Bradley Avenue in Tarboro, was out of jail on bail at the time of the Skelton slayings. In July, Brinson was charged with assaulting a handicapped man by hitting him in the head with a metal broomstick. Brinson posted a $3,000 bond, according to court documents.

Williams filed court motions stating he will not speak with law enforcement without his attorney present. He's represented by Greenville lawyer Matthew Geoffrion.

Williams and Brinson claimed to be indigent and asked for court-appointed attorneys. Neither defendant had any money or steady employment at the time of their arrests. Williams lived with his girlfriend and Brinson lived with his mother with neither man paying bills, according to court records.

A third defendant in the case, Dakeithia Nesha Andrews, 31, has been charged with conspiracy related to robbery with a dangerous weapon. She was given a $100,000 bond and made bail in mid-October. She's referred to in court document by detectives as "a principal in a murder investigation."

The homicides were discovered during a welfare check. Edgecombe County deputies found the couple dead on their property at 7218 N.C. 33 in Leggett.

The double homicide was solved in less than eight hours, said Sheriff Clee Atkinson.

Warrants make it clear the motive for the killings was robbery. Not released yet to the public is how the Skeltons were known to their alleged assailants or why the Skeltons were targeted.

Both Gary and Jackie are originally from Alabama, where their families reside. The mayor worked as a computer programmer at BB&T until retirement. His wife was an oncology nurse at Vidant Edgecombe Hospital in Tarboro. Members of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, the couple had three sons and six grandchildren.

About halfway between Tarboro and Whitakers on N.C. 33, Leggett has a population of only a few dozen people.

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