Wilmington man guilty of first-degree murder of 3-year-old boy

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Montey Murray speaks with attorneys while on trial for first-degree murder. Photo by Christina Haley.
Montey Murray speaks with attorneys while on trial for first-degree murder. Photo by Christina Haley.

A Wilmington man has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for first-degree murder in the March 2012 death of a 3-year-old boy.

A Brunswick County jury on Tuesday convicted 29-year-old Montey Murray of first-degree murder and felony child abuse in connection with the death of Jaronn McCallister, the son of Murray’s girlfriend at the time of the boy’s death. He was also convicted of flee to elude arrest and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on law enforcement officers in connection with a police chase the day Jaronn died.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis sentenced Murray to life in prison for the murder conviction, followed by consecutive sentences of 25 to 39 months for the assault conviction and 11 to 23 months in prison for the flee to elude arrest conviction.

Jaronn died at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center in Bolivia on March 1, 2012, according to District Attorney Jon David, who spoke to a Port City Daily reporter about the case after Murray’s indictment.

The day before Jaronn’s death, Murray went to his girlfriend’s apartment in Shallotte at 11:30 p.m., David said. Jaronn’s mother took his vehicle and went to work in Wilmington, leaving Jaronn at her home overnight with Murray and his cousin.

At about 9 a.m. March 1, Murray drove Jaronn to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead 15 minutes after arrival, David said. An autopsy revealed Jaronn died from blunt-force trauma, multiple contusions on his forehead, chest and stomach, and a lacerated liver.

Murray reportedly led police on “high-speed chase” after they tried to speak to him about the child’s death, David said. Police stopped Murray’s vehicle and took him to the Brunswick County jail, where he remained under a $100,000 secured bond until his indictment on the murder charge about 18 months later.

Closing statements

While presenting closing arguments Tuesday, the State and defense asked the jury to use testimony from Jessie Holt, Murray’s cousin, to help reach their verdicts.

“Of all the people in the world that could have perpetrated this crime upon this little boy, you are left with two,” Assistant District Attorney Lee Bollinger said to the jury. “Two people that possibly could have done it…the defendant, Montey Murray, and Jessie Holt, who were the only two people in that home at the time this child was brutalized.”

When Holt took the stand April 2, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right ensuring one’s due process and protecting against self-incrimination in exchange for immunity. Holt testified that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was a child, which causes him to hear voices and black out.

“If anybody in the world was motivated to help Montey Murray, it would be his cousin, Jessie Holt. And he could have done it,” Bollinger said.

James Payne, a defense attorney representing Murray, maintained Murray’s innocence, arguing the State got the wrong person. The fact that the state presented to the jury that there were two people in the apartment that could have inflicted the fatal injuries to Jaronn is reasonable doubt, Payne said.

“That’s the very definition of reasonable doubt. Because the State has charged one–Montey Murray–the State wants you to solely focus on Montey Murray. They don’t want you to focus on the other possibility.

“To convict Montey Murray you’re going to have to believe the preposterous…Montey Murray treated this child like his son for three years; babysat him many times. Never laid a finger on him and the one night Jaronn McAlllister winds up dead from lethal blows to his stomach from being beaten, is the one night that Jessie Holt was present. The preposterous is that, all the sudden, Montey Murray would do this.”

After the jury convicted Murray of all charges in the case, Candice Young, Jaronn’s mother, gave a statement to the court.

Young said that the past three years have been “very long” without her son.

“It’s been very hard to adjust without him. The first day of school, first date, graduation, all of that is gone because of one person. He’ll miss everything,” Young said. “He just doesn’t get to live his life that he should have been able to live. And I feel sorry for Montey’s mom because now that’s two sons she has lost.”

Payne filed notice of appeal in the case.

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