Prosecutors say suspect in Independence Mall murder missed four times before shooting victim in back of head

PortCityDaily.com is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Traneta Campbell made her first appearance in New Hanover County District court, for the fatal April 1 shooting of Catherine Ballard in the parking lot of Independence Mall. (Photo by Christina Haley.)
Traneta Campbell made her first appearance in New Hanover County District court, for the fatal April 1 shooting of Catherine Ballard in the parking lot of Independence Mall. (Photo by Christina Haley.)

NEW HANVOER COUNTY — Prosecutors say a teen charged with the first-degree murder of 24-year-old Catherine Ruth Ballard, shot the victim “point blank” in the back of the head in front of Independence Mall.

Traneta Shanaia Campbell, 19, of Wilmington, made her first appearance Tuesday morning in New Hanover County District Court to face the murder charge. During the hearing, Judge Robin Robinson ordered Campbell be held at the New Hanover County Jail without bond.

Traneta Shanaia Campbell
Traneta Shanaia Campbell

Assistant District Attorney Christa Lawler, who appeared in court Tuesday for the case, said Campbell open fire near the mall entrance in the parking lot, before she shot Ballard in the head.

The fatal shooting occurred in the parking lot of Independence Mall at approximately 1:22 p.m. Saturday, April 1. Lawler said the shooting was caught on camera.

“This defendant pointed her gun and shot at Ms. Ballard four times, missed, and pointed one last time and shot her in the back of the head,” Lawler said.

Campbell then got into a vehicle and left the scene, Lawler said. The driver of that vehicle – 26-year-old Darius Dandre Nelson – has been charged with accessory after the fact of murder. 

Nelson also made an appearance in district court on Tuesday morning. Lawler said, he is charged with allegedly driving Campbell away from the scene of the shooting and harboring the murder suspect while law enforcement officials were in search of Campbell. The Wilmington Police Department announced Campbell was wanted for murder Monday afternoon.

“His co-defendant shot Ms. Ballard point blank in the back of the head,” Lawler said.  “This defendant was present at the murder scene. He drove his co-defendant … away from the murder scene. He has admitted to disposing of the murder weapon.”

Darius Nelson
Darius Nelson

Prosecutors allege Nelson was also hiding and visiting with Campbell while law enforcement searched for the suspect. Lawler said Nelson told law enforcement that “he didn’t know where she was.”

U.S. Marshals and other local authorities located Campbell and Nelson in a shed behind a home in the 2400 block of Monroe Street at about 8:15 p.m. Monday. The two suspects were taken into custody without incident.

Originally given a $250,000 bond, Judge Robinson raised Nelson’s bond to $500,000 secured, at the request of the state, during the hearing Tuesday morning. Nelson and Campbell’s cases are scheduled for felony district court on April 20.