Sanford murder case hits stumbling block

Witness refuses to testify, denies intimidation reports
Jun. 13, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

Despite reports of potential witness intimidation in his courtroom Wednesday, District Court Judge Robert Dale Stubbs found no probable cause to automatically send a murder case against a Lillington man to trial.

Decarlos Cherry, 20, is accused of shooting and killing Benjamin Shelvin Jr., 28, on April 11. Both men lived in Harnett County but have local ties, and the shooting occurred in Sanford in the 400 block of Dudley Avenue. Cherry was arrested in Greensboro about two weeks ago.

Local law enforcement investigators found at least one potential witness to the shooting, Jacquelyn Baldwin, who gave a statement on April 15 indicating she had details about the incident — the same day that authorities issued a warrant for Cherry's arrest. The state then subpoenaed her to testify in Wednesday's hearing at 9 a.m.; however, she didn't show and didn't return phone calls until later in the day.

When Baldwin took the stand at around 3 p.m., she quickly began refusing to answer any of assistant District Attorney Mike Beam's questions.

After being sworn in, Baldwin testified that she knew Shelvin because her aunt had dated one of his cousins.

Baldwin said she didn't know how long she'd known Shelvin, and when Beam asked if she had seen him on the day he was killed, she refused to answer, eventually saying she didn't know anything and just wanted to go home.

"I told you I ain't want to get on no stand," Baldwin told Beam when he asked if she was not cooperating because of intimidation. "Ain't nobody intimidated me, ain't nobody say nothing to me. I just don't want to get up here and say nothing."

Both Beam and Stubbs continued to press her on the intimidation question, but she maintained that she simply didn't want to testify anymore. She also claimed investigators originally told her she would never have to show her face publicly. Baldwin could be held in contempt of court; Beam said he wouldn't request it, but Stubbs said he hadn't made up his mind yet.

Cherry's attorney, Robert Reives II, said afterward that because Stubbs didn't find probable cause, it's now up to the state to decide whether to drop the charges or press on with the case. Beam was in court the rest of the afternoon and didn't respond to a message left with his office requesting comment.

Before the hearing had started, Beam filed a motion to clear the courtroom due to witness intimidation. Stubbs declined that request but ordered bailiffs to remove one member of the audience who was reportedly seen speaking to a visibly shaken Baldwin before she was called to the stand. Stubbs only identified that man as Mr. Bell, and it's unclear if he will face any charges.

Stubbs also chastised Cherry himself, saying a bailiff had spotted him repeatedly extending his thumbs and pointer fingers and pointing at Baldwin during her stunted testimony. Stubbs said he couldn't be sure if Cherry was trying to intimidate Baldwin — such a hand gesture is often used to symbolize a gun — or if he was merely fidgeting in his handcuffs, but he warned Cherry to be aware that bailiffs were watching.

"This court takes things like that very seriously," Stubbs said.