PENDER COUNTY — The suspect involved with the murder of an Exotic Hemp Company employee in Surf City made his first appearance in the Pender County Courthouse Friday.
Charles Michael Holloway Haywood, 22, is being charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of armed robbery, and could face a sentence of life in prison or capital punishment. District attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties Ben David confirmed the death penalty is on the table.
He explained to media after Haywood’s hearing, the state has requested Haywood be appointed an attorney from the capital defender’s office, while a decision is made — which could take several weeks.
David said it’s not a judgment he makes alone.
“It’s a committee of five of us who look at all the facts and the underlying case,” he said. “We look at the aggravating factors versus the mitigating factors to determine whether we’ll petition the court under Rule 24 for the death penalty.”
Haywood was remanded to the Pender County Jail without the possibility of bond, “given the nature of the case,” David said.
A Holly Springs native, Haywood didn’t speak during his very brief time before Hon. Judge Russell Davis.
David did not reveal further information about the case as it’s an ongoing investigation.
Wednesday, the Surf City Police Department responded to a 911 call around 6:40 p.m. at Exotic Hemp Company, located at 100 Charlie Medlin Dr. off Highway 50. Upon arrival, officers found Margaret Nicole Bracey, 42 years old, deceased.
Bracey was an employee of the company and according to a Thursday social media post, Exotic Hemp Company has closed all three of its locations — Surf City, Hampstead and Wilmington — until further notice.
Court documents show an arrest warrant was sought for Haywood on Thursday for possessing a weapon, robbing $750 from Exotic Hemp Company and killing Bracey. The defendant turned himself into the Surf City Police Department around 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
The police report also states Haywood was armed with a “lethal cutting instrument,” though it’s unclear if the knife was used in the incident.
“We are very relieved we have the man in custody,” David told the media.
He added, the connection, if any, between Haywood and Bracey is still being investigated. The police report confirms: “relationship unknown.”
“I know this is a case that has shocked the community, and this is something that a lot of people have turned their attention to,” David said. “And we are certainly giving this a very high priority in the criminal justice system.”
Robberies at commercial establishments, David said, are something the district takes “a very dim view on.”
“One reason so many people are shocked is where it occurred and how busy it is,” David said. “Anytime something happens in open daylight, in a well-lit area, in a crowded place, it gives everyone pause and to say how concerned they are.”
The case will remain in the Pender County jurisdiction, as opposed to being transferred to federal court.
Haywood will next appear before Judge Davis on Sept. 14 in felony district court at the Pender County Courthouse.
This article has been updated to remove “broken bones” from the victim’s injuries. Surf City Police Chief Phil Vorhees said the police report obtained by PCD included the mistake.
Tips or comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.