Year in Review: Two unsolved murders in 2015, two high-profile trials set for 2016 is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

New Hanover County, Wilmington

Wilmington police at the scene investigating the scene of a wreck on Market Street where a man was found dead in his vehicle. Photo by Christina Haley.
Wilmington police at the scene investigating the scene of a wreck on Market Street where a man was found dead in his vehicle. Photo by Christina Haley.

The year 2015 has not been short of high-profile cases in the Cape Fear region. The year began with several homicide investigations, but Wilmington and New Hanover County detectives have made arrests in all but two of this year’s murders.

The year 2015 started with a series of death investigations for the Wilmington Police Department. Between Thursday, Jan. 29, and Monday, Feb. 22, Wilmington detectives opened four death investigations, which Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous noted was an unusual series of unrelated—though tragic—events. The police chief held a press conference following the investigations to provide status updates on the cases and information on several arrests.

Then, in New Hanover County in the early morning hours of May 4, homicide detectives were tasked with finding three suspects after 32-year-old Yancey Martin Edwards was found fatally shot at a home in Ogden area. A second man was injured in the shooting. And while a woman who was also at the home at the time of the shooting was not injured, two dogs at the home were killed.

New Hanover County Sheriff’s detectives have since charged Theio Robert Manley, 24, Michael Anthony Rich Malloy, 24, and Brent Thomas James Hyatt, 25, with Edward’s death and were indicted on first-degree murder charges on June 1. Their cases are still pending trial dates.

In the first of the unsolved murders of the year, Wilmington police are still searching for clues in the case of 33-year-old Lutfee Muitsin Henderson, who was found fatally shot in driver’s seat of his vehicle on Aug. 16. The vehicle had wrecked in the area of South Sixth and Kidder streets at about 2:30 a.m.

Darrell Gerard Taylor
Darrell Gerard Taylor

Henderson’s death on Market Street was the second fatal shooting that week involving a motorist who wrecked his car. Ali Iquan Dameish Rouse was found dead at the scene of a wreck in the 1900 block of Market Street on Aug. 18. Montrell Dyshawn Sweet, 22, of Wilmington, has been charged in Rouse’s death. He has since been indicted on a first-degree murder charge and the case is pending a trial date.

In September,  35-year-old Yawanda Felecia Doe and her 1-year-old girl were killed in a violent attack at Greentree Apartments. Doe’s 3-year-old boy and a 46-year-old woman were hurt in the attack. Darrell Gerard Taylor, 34, of Wilmington, was charged with murder and attempted murder charges in the case. He has not yet been indicted on the charges.

The following month in New Hanover County detectives arrested 28-year-old  Jennifer Ann Crampton, of Burgaw, who was originally charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflict serious injury  in connection with a shooting that sent her 31-year-old ex-husband to the hospital. A day after the shooting, Robert Crampton died of his injuries. She has since been charged with first-degree murder. The case has not been indicted.

Community members gather for a candlelight vigil outside a house where a teen was shot and killed Sunday. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Community members gather for a candlelight vigil outside a house where a teen was shot and killed on Castle Street. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

And the final days of 2015 mark the opening of a the last unsolved homicide investigation of the year. The body of Rashaun Akeem McKoy was found in the 300 block of Westchester Road at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30. Detectives suspect the Wilmington man’s death may be linked to a shooting. Details about the shooting have not been released by the police department. The investigation is ongoing.

Just two days before the death of McKoy, two teens had their first appearance in court on first-degree murder charges in what Wilmington detectives have described as a drive-by gang-related shooting. Tyrek Desmond Anderson, 17, and Deandre Nixon, 16, each have been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of 16-year-old Shane Simpson, who was shot and killed at the intersection of 11th and Castle streets on Dec. 20. They are scheduled for a hearing in the case in January 2016.

Upcoming murder trials in 2016

James Bradley
James Bradley

Two high-profile murder trials are set to take place in 2016.

A trial date has been set in the case of 52-year-old James Opelton Bradley, a Wilmington man charged with first-degree murder in connection with a woman who has been missing since April 2014 and is presumed dead by local authorities.

During a hearing in New Hanover County Superior Court in September, Bradley pleaded not guilty in the death of 53-year-old Shannon Rippy Vannewkirk. She was reported missing April 7, 2014 and was last seen at the Husk restaurant in downtown Wilmington on April 5, 2014. Bradley’s trial date in the case has been scheduled for March 21, 2016.

Authorities first reported finding a body believed to be Vannewkirk in a shallow grave near Hoover Road in Hampstead in late-April 2014. But after an autopsy report, the police department reported the body was 34-year-old Elisha Marie Tucker, who had been reported missing in October 2013. Investigators have opened a second homicide investigation into Tucker’s death. Bradley has not been charged in Tucker’s death, but remains a person of interest.

In December, Pender County judge ruled that 37-year-old Nashid Porter is competent to stand in an upcoming trial.

Nashid Porter
Nashid Porter

Porter, of Wallace, was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of 32-year-old Brian Theodus Grant, who was fatally shot on July 27, 2012 in Wilmington. A May 31, 2016, trial date has been set for the 2012 murder charge in Pender County Superior Court, which has been the third trial date scheduled in the case.

A judge granted a defense motion to change venue that moved the case from New Hanover to Pender County after a key witness scheduled to testify against Porter was gunned down in November 2014. Porter, who at the time was free on pre-trial release, has since been charged with murder in the witness’ death in Duplin County.

Porter was indicted Nov. 30 by a Duplin County grand jury on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the witnesses death death. Prosecutors there have indicated they will seek the death penalty in a hearing scheduled for Jan. 11, 2016 in Duplin County Superior Court.