Saturday, April 20, 2024

After Supreme Court denies appeal, convicted killer of Wilmington FBI employee seeks to re-open case

The convicted murderer of the FBI Wilmington field office manager was in town Friday attempting to re-open the case after exhausting the appeals process.

Tryone Delgado was convicted of murdering his neighbor, FBI field office manager Melissa Mooney, and is now attempting to find issues with the original trial process. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Department of Adult Correction)

WILMINGTON — One of the city’s most notorious convicted murderers, Tyrone Delgado, reappeared in the New Hanover County Courthouse on Friday.

More than a decade after he was convicted of murdering Melissa Mooney, a 28-year-old manager of the FBI’s field office in Wilmington, Delgado was led into the courtroom by a group of New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHCSO) deputies, where he sat with his defense attorneys.

After exhausting his appeals with the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and after the U.S. Supreme Court then declined to hear his case, Delgado’s counsel brought forth a motion for appropriate relief in the hope of finding issues with the handling of the 2008 trial.

After hearing a previous case, Judge Phyllis Gorham recused herself from the bench because of her role in prosecuting Delgado in a separate case that led to his conviction of involuntary manslaughter. That case was a major development in Mooney’s unresolved death because Delgado’s DNA was collected and ultimately linked to a hair found in the FBI employee’s house after her murder in 1999.

According to Assistant to the District Attorney Samantha Dooies, who sat behind D.A. Ben David during Friday’s hearing, the defense attorneys are attempting to find elements of the original trial they “might be able to take issue with in respect to how the trial process went down.”

Right now the only opportunity he has to reopen the case is by filing things like motions for appropriate relief,” Dooies said. 

In North Carolina, a motion for appropriate relief — one that allows a criminal defendant to challenge a conviction or sentence — must be filed within 10 days of the judgment, or as in this case, with the consent of the prosecutor.

Although this isn’t a capital case, Delgado’s two attorneys are from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Raleigh.

In the 20 years I’ve been a prosecutor, this has not only been the longest trial that we’ve had in terms of the actual testimony — we had over 600 pieces of evidence and over a hundred witnesses that took nine weeks to try — but it also involved many law enforcement agencies from many different states,” David said. 

At issue on Friday was a discovery request made by Delgado’s defense team of an extensive collection of VHS tapes and audio cassettes that held recorded interviews with Delgado and various witnesses. Judge Kent Harrell agreed to provide funding for the data transfer to more modern electronic media.

Defense attorney Hannah Autry also made a moral motion to unseal questionnaires that were used during the trial’s jury selection process, which Judge Harrell agreed to under the condition that only members of Autry’s defense team could see the documents.

“The goal of everyone in my office is to make sure we’re as transparent as possible about the process and about what led to his conviction,” David said. “We’ve done our level best to comply with these discovery obligations.”

Mark Darrough can be reached at

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