“Since true bills were returned today, these cases will go on the administrative court calendar on April 23rd for any motions to be heard that are filed by the state of North Carolina or the defense attorneys who represent these individuals,” District Attorney Valerie Asbell said in a statement this evening.
Indicted were Matthew Simms, Keyon West and James Powell in the August murders of James and Janice Harris and James and Peggy Whitley.
The true bills returned were for four counts of first-degree murder, armed robbery, first-degree burglary and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
When contacted following the release of the statement, Asbell said, “I cannot comment any further regarding the particulars of the case.”
The only information to be divulged in the case is that items of value were missing from the Harris residence and the motive is robbery. The four were shot through a glass door while they sat playing cards at the dining room table. All the victims died at the table after they were shot multiple times.
Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp said this evening, “The sheriff’s office continues to work this case. The grand jury returning indictments does mean our work is done.”
Tripp expressed appreciation to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and to Asbell and her staff. “Working crimes such as this takes a collaborative effort not only with law enforcement but our community. Information we’ve received has been very helpful in solving crimes such as this. What we allow is what will continue. We need the public to come forward and provide us information, not only in this case but other cases as well. My sincere condolences are extended to both families involved and my thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Asked whether the indictments bolstered the case, the sheriff said, “Strong evidence has been presented through the district attorney and we continue to gather that evidence as we proceed further in this case.”
He said additional arrests “are very possible,” although he declined comment on how many suspects investigators are still looking at.