Rocky Mount man pleads guilty in drive-by homicide

By Brie Handgraaf

Staff Writer

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TARBORO — A Rocky Mount man pleaded guilty Monday in connection with the 2012 drive-by shooting death of a 22-year-old man.

A plea arrangement was approved in Edgecombe County Superior Court in which James Braxton O’Neal Powell, 23, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 170 to 216 months in the N.C. Department of Corrections. Powell’s co-defendant, Jonathan Leon Nixon, reportedly pleaded guilty earlier this year to aid and abet assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill, inflicting serious injury. Nixon will be sentenced later today in connection with the charge.

On March 19, 2012, Powell and Nixon, 24, drove by a house on the 1000 block of Blandwood Drive in Rocky Mount and opened fire, wounding Jessie Joyner, who was outside the home with friends and family. Joyner died two days later.

Assistant District Attorney Brooks Frye said the shooting stemmed from an ongoing feud between the assailants and a friend of Joyner.