Saturday, April 20, 2024

2 dead, 1 man charged in connection to Hampstead stabbing

The suspect is being held with no bond, could face the death penalty

Pender County Sheriff Alan Cutler escorts Cody Coffield into the courtroom for his first appearance, where he is being charged with two counts of first-degree murder. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti)

PENDER COUNTY — The man charged in a stabbing that killed two people Thursday evening in Hampstead made his first appearance in court Friday morning. The district attorney’s office made it clear it could pursue the death penalty.

Cody Camron Coffield, 30, of Hampstead, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, punishable by life in prison or execution. He remains in custody and is being held without bond, and was ordered by Pender County Judge Hon. Russell Davis no contact with the victims’ families.

“My head’s about to explode,” Coffield mumbled, when asked if he had any questions. He stood handcuffed, his head slumped before the judge.

Coffield is a convicted felon from Akron, Ohio, who also has a juvenile record from criminal gang involvement with Y.S.G. Based on reports from the Akron Police Department, Coffield was arrested in Ohio in April 2021, meaning he hasn’t been in Pender County even a year.

The capital defender’s office is appointing Coffield an attorney.

The Pender County Sheriff’s Office responded to calls about the stabbing around 5 p.m. Thursday in the 1700 block of Watts Landing Road, a rural residential area. Sheriff Alan Cutler said upon arrival, two males, Ricky Lynn Bullard, 57, and Roy Lester Batson II, 49, were found dead from inflicting stab wounds. A search of the area was conducted, and the suspect was apprehended within hours. The office announced by 11 p.m. it had detained a person of interest.

“We are very pleased at the speed that the individual was taken into custody,” Cutler said.

Surf City Police Department and Pender EMS and Fire assisted at the scene.

Ben David, district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties, said Coffield is being held without the possibility of posting bail until a Rule 24 hearing is held Mar. 16.

During a Rule 24 hearing, the DA’s office decides whether to pursue the death penalty. The DA’s office must make a determination for capital punishment within 30 days of an indictment.

“We take that very seriously, deliberately,” David said. “That’s not a decision we make hastily. That’s a decision made only after many prosecutors look at all the evidence before us.”

As the investigation is ongoing, law enforcement officials are not releasing any information regarding a motive or connection to the victims.

“Motive is certainly an aspect we explore in a criminal case,” David said. “It’s not part of the burden of proof in almost all criminal cases but nonetheless it can be very helpful to know if there is motive or even an absence of motive.”

Prior to Coffield’s time in Pender County, he was living in Akron, Ohio, and has a long history of arrests. He was convicted for criminal gang involvement with Y.S.G., according to official Akron police reports. Between 2009 and 2010, 17-year-old Coffield was arrested seven times for felony burglary and assault, including threatening to shoot and kill a school custodian, who asked him to pick up the trash he threw on the ground, at Kenmore High School. He spent time at Summit County Juvenile Detention Center.

After he turned 18, he was arrested five more times in Akron, including in June 2010 when he jumped on the hood of a car of someone he knew, according to reports. He started smashing the windshield with his feet, which caused glass to cut the occupants, including a baby. Coffield was charged with endangerment of a child, criminal damaging/endangering knowingly, assault and participation in a criminal gang.

Coffield was arrested again in 2016 for trying to break into a coin machine, which an accomplice told police was to “pay for Coffield’s house arrest.”

In May 2017, police charged him for violation of felony parole for being in possession of firearms and drugs, with intent to sell. According to a police report, officers responded to shots fired at Coffield’s home. After being told officers were going to obtain a search warrant, Coffield claimed he was having an asthma attack and then fled on foot. 

Once officers caught him and secured him in the back of a patrol car, Coffield began head-butting the metal divider inside the cruiser. Afraid of serious injury, officers removed Coffield from the vehicle and deployed pepper spray as the suspect resisted arrest. 

Later, when the search warrant was issued, officers found two sawed off shotguns, a revolver BB gun and a 9 millimeter pistol, as well as methamphetamine prepped for sale and schedule 2 pills.

Coffield’s last arrest in Ohio was on Apr. 15, 2021, for assaulting a male, along with three other offenders, at The Residential Institutional Probation Program, known as Oriana House.

Police reports note during multiple arrests throughout the years, Coffield was disorderly and uncooperative, often assaulting officers and using racial slurs.

The Pender County Sheriff’s Office is asking for anyone with information regarding Thursday’s stabbing to contact the department at 910-259-1212.

“The arrest is the start of an investigation, not its end,” DA Ben David said. “If anyone has information, however small or insignificant they think it might be, it’s important for them to come forward and report that — not just even the incident itself but the surrounding circumstances.”

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