Heard in the Court of Appeals September 25, 2014.
Caswell County. No. 08 CRS 50044.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney General Kimberly D. Potter, for the State.
Linda B. Weisel for Defendant.
McGEE, Chief Judge. Judges GEER and STROUD concur.
Appeal by Defendant from judgment entered 19
February 2009 by Judge Donald Stephens in Superior Court, Caswell County.
McGEE, Chief Judge.
Major Woody Myers, Jr. (" Defendant" ) was charged with the first-degree murder of his wife, Darlene Myers (" Ms. Myers" ). During Defendant's trial, Defendant entered an Alford plea to second-degree murder, pursuant to a plea agreement. The plea agreement required that Defendant concede the existence of two aggravating factors in connection with Ms. Myers' homicide. The trial court accepted the plea agreement, found the existence of those aggravating factors, and sentenced Defendant for second-degree murder in the aggravated range. On appeal, Defendant contends there was an insufficient factual basis to support the aggravating factors. We agree with Defendant. Thus, the plea agreement must be set aside, and we remand for disposition on Defendant's original charge of first-degree murder.
Defendant and Ms. Myers lived together in rural Caswell County. Defendant regularly shot targets with firearms on their property. Defendant's neighbor, Danny Gregory (" Mr. Gregory" ), disliked Defendant's target shooting and at times argued with Defendant over his practice of target shooting. Mr. Gregory's cousin, Tony Cook (" Mr. Cook" ), was working on Mr. Gregory's property with other workers around 11:00 a.m. on 14 January 2008, when Mr. Cook heard gun shots coming from Defendant's property. Defendant was conducting target practice with his Taurus 9mm pistol (" the pistol" ). Fearing that he or one of the other workers might be struck by a stray bullet, Mr. Cook confronted Defendant, and the two argued. Defendant eventually calmed down, apologized, went into his house, and Mr. Cook returned to his work.
Within the hour, at 11:37 a.m., Defendant called 911 and reported a shooting inside his home. Law enforcement and emergency medical personnel arrived at Defendant's home around 11:50 a.m. and found Ms. Myers lying unresponsive and face down on the kitchen floor with a fatal gunshot wound in the back of her head. Other than an overturned space heater, the kitchen appeared undisturbed. In spite of multiple attempts at resuscitation, Ms. Myers was pronounced dead at 1:07 p.m., ninety minutes after the 911 call.
Defendant was not at home when law enforcement arrived. After calling 911, Defendant left his house and went to his stepdaughter's house to tell her what had happened. However, Defendant eventually returned and peacefully surrendered to law enforcement. Defendant subsequently was indicted for first-degree murder.
At trial, Defendant testified that he had consumed two 22-ounce beers and had smoked some marijuana on the morning of 14 January 2008, before engaging in target practice. Defendant further testified that, after his confrontation with Mr. Cook, he went inside his house and had a heated conversation with Ms. Myers over his ongoing disputes with Mr. Gregory. Defendant stated that he was frustrated, was talking with his hands, and that he continued to hold the pistol while he spoke. However, the pistol reportedly had a " hair-pin trigger," and ...