N.C. Court of Appeals upholds murder conviction of Brunswick man in elderly woman’s death

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Richard Grissett
Richard Hugh Grissett

A Shallotte man will spend his life in prison after the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld his August 2014 first-degree murder conviction for strangling an elderly woman in Brunswick County.

The court heard the appeal of Richard Hugh Gissett on April 27 and ruled unanimously in its opinion of the case, District Attorney Jon David announced this week.

Grissett, 54, was convicted Aug. 10, 2014, of first-degree murder in the death 86-year-old Linnie Mae Ward. He was also convicted of first-degree burglary, common law robbery and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Ward was found dead in her home on Gwynn Road in the Longwood community in southwest Brunswick County on Nov. 13, 2012. According to prosecutors in the case, Ward had lived in the home for 63 years.

The night before Ward’s body was discovered, Grissett was at Ward’s nephew’s home smoking crack cocaine, according to testimony from the trial. Grissett heard Ward’s nephew speaking to her over the phone and asked  if Ward still lived in the same home on Gwynn Road. Grissett drove to Ward’s home, where he tried to rob her, prosecutors said.

When detectives went to Ward’s home the next day, they discovered her body with a gold crucifix necklace beside it, as well as several bullets scattered around the bedroom where she was killed, but they did not find a gun in the house.

Detectives later recovered Ward’s gun in a pond near Grissett’s home. He was also seen in video footage at the Wal-Mart in Shallotte purchasing a gold crucifix necklace the day Ward’s body was found.

A week later, Grissett was arrested on a first-degree murder charge. While he was being processed, Grissett talked to a detective about what happened the night of Ward’s death and confessed to killing her, according to prosecutors.

Grissett’s video interview with detectives was presented to the court during his trial.

“I did not mess with that woman until she pulled a rifle on me. I didn’t go to hurt her,” Grissett said in the interrogation video. “She was back there in the bedroom…I told her I was here getting some money.”

Grissset said he saw Ward go to the bed room and get a gun.

“She told me to get out of there,” he said. “I grabbed the rifle…after that we went on the floor at the end of the bed. She hit me…and she scratched me. That’s when she got my necklace and that’s when I hit her–two, three, four, times–I don’t know,” Grissett said.

“Did you ever put your hands on her again?” Grissett was asked in the interview. “Yeah. I choked her,” he replied.

After Grissett’s conviction, Donald Ward spoke on behalf of the Ward family and told the court she still had a lot of life left.

“Our family has suffered a great loss for which I don’t have words to express the deep hurt that it’s caused. It’s taken us a long time…for us to live and remember Grandma for all the good times that we’ve had. She had a lot life…and that was taken away from us,” Donald Ward said.

Grissett was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. According to the N.C. Department of Corrections, Grissett’s sentence began on April 10, 2014. He is being held in Central Prison in Raleigh.

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Christina Haley is a crime reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6337 or Christina.h@portcitydaily.com.