Six homicides were reported in Nash County in 2019 and all of them are considered solved.
The Telegram asked the Nash County Sheriff’s Office to provide information regarding the homicides in the county this year. Five cases were reported to the Nash County Sheriff’s Office, though one of those deaths actually occurred about 15 years ago.
Another homicide took place in the Town of Nashville. These deaths are in addition to the 18 homicides reported last year in Rocky Mount, making 2019 one of the deadliest years on record in Nash County.
Chief Deputy Brandon Medina said that the year was a statistical anomaly in Nash County.
“These are mostly domestic-related homicides, which usually throw off numbers,” he said.
The first reported homicide of the year was an example. Diana Alejandra Keel, 38, of 208 Old Country Home Road near Nashville, was reported missing in early March. A few days after her disappearance, on March 9, 2019, her traumatized body was found on a rural road in Edgecombe County.
Her husband, Rexford Lynn Keel Jr., 57, soon emerged as a suspect in the slaying. He fled as a warrant for his arrest was issued and the national media became caught up in his flight from justice.
Keel eventually was captured and arrested on March 17 in Arizona, where he was pulled over in a traffic stop. He was extradited to North Carolina and charged with first-degree murder.
In April, a Nash County man was arrested and charged in connection with the death of his father.
Nash County deputies responded on April 13, 2019, to 7213 Summerlea Place in Rocky Mount in reference to an accidental shooting call. However, they arrived on the scene to find William Marcellus Major Sr., 51, dead from a gunshot wound and soon determined that the incident was the result of a domestic homicide.
The man’s son, William Marcellus Major Jr., 22, was arrested that same day and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death.
A 51-year-old Raleigh woman, Sarah Denise Patterson of Pinewinds Drive in Raleigh, was reported missing in mid-May and was last seen in Spring Hope. The Nash County Sheriff’s Office aided in the search and Patterson’s body was discovered on May 20, 2019, according to Medina.
Cleavon Royster Williams, 44, of Spring Hope, was arrested on May 22 and charged with first-degree murder in Patterson’s death. He reportedly confessed to the crime after his arrest.
April June Smith, 41, also of Spring Hope, was arrested on May 29 and charged with accessory after the fact of first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of Patterson.
The body of Marcelino Ponce-Gonzales, 59, was discovered on June 11, 2019, in one of the bedrooms of a mobile home at 7515 Strickland Road near Bailey soon after a blaze was extinguished. Medina said at the time that it was clear to investigators from the start that the cause of the fire was suspicious.
Alayna Renee Sherrod, 32, of the same address, was arrested that same day and charged with first-degree murder and arson in connection with the death.
An unsolved case was solved on Oct. 24, 2019, when the body of Deborah Elaine Deans was found behind the mobile home that was listed as her last residence.
Deans, who was 45 at the time, reportedly lived at 1402 Wiley Road near Spring Hope when she was reported as missing from Rocky Mount on April 19, 2004. She was last seen alive on Jan. 19, 2004, Medina said.
A tip called into the Fighting Crime Facebook page lead to the discovery of Dean’s body on Oct. 24 on the property connected to 1402 Wiley Road. Dean’s sister-in-law, Kimberly Kay Hancock, 49, who lived at the same address, was arrested that same day in connection with Dean’s homicide. She was charged with first-degree murder.
Another Nash County murder took place in the Town of Nashville in November. That crime was investigated by the Nashville Police Department.
Marquis Perry, 27, was killed on Nov. 14, 2019, at the Oak Tree Apartments at 1847 First Church St. in Nashville. Nashville police suspected it was a home invasion gone wrong.
After an investigation lasting several weeks, warrants were issued for Antwan Ray Hawkins of Charlotte and Montreal Tyrek Cooper of Maple Street in Rocky Mount in connection with the crime.
Hawkins, 35, was located in federal prison where he was being held for a federal probation violation for weapons and drug charges. He now faces additional charges of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, attempted armed robbery and felony breaking and entering in connection with the death of Perry.
Cooper, 24, remains at large and police are seeking the aid of the public in finding him. Cooper faces charges of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, attempted armed robbery and felony breaking and entering in connection with the Perry homicide.
Not reported by the Nash County Sheriff’s Office in the list of 2019 homicides was the officer-involved shooting of a Bailey man.
Jonathan Ramirez, 28, was gunned down by three Nash County deputies after he reportedly pulled a weapon from the back seat of his car as deputies attempted to arrest him. That incident was investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation and the death was deemed justifiable.