City man takes plea in 2009 murder
55-year-old deemed unfit to stand trial
by Mary Katherine Murphy Staff Writer
LAURINBURG — A Laurinburg man charged with the murder of a Maxton man pleaded to a lesser charge in Monday’s session of Scotland County Superior Court.
Carlton Primus, 24, was sentenced to at least 12 more years of imprisonment after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 31-year-old Chris McKoy, of Maxton.
In another result of the day’s court session, Lucio Vazquez Valdez, the man charged with first-degree murder in last year’s death of 63-year-old Judith Patel, was deemed unfit to stand trial and will be remitted to a hospital facilty.
Primus has been in custody since September 2009, days after the McKoy’s body was found on Rockingham Road near Laurel Hill on Sept. 6. Medical reports concluded that McKoy had suffered seven bullet wounds to the head, neck, abdomen, hands, left arm and leg.
Primus pleaded not guilty to first degree murder, but after the District Attorney’s Office offered a plea bargain, Primus entered a guilty plea on Monday to second-degree murder and armed robbery. As part of the bargain, charges for conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and possession of stolen goods were dropped.
Patrick Murphy, 34, and Quatrell Nicholson, 22, both of Laurinburg have also been charged in McKoy’s killing.
“Investigation of the case indicates that those defendants, along with the victim and perhaps another individual, were engaged in a criminal enterprise in 2009 in which their association involved robbery of various stores and individuals,” Assistant District Attorney Michael Parker said during Monday’s plea hearing.
Following a home invasion in Robeson County, on Sept. 2, 2009, McKoy fled to the Jameson Inn in Laurinburg, remaining there until Sept. 5 when he asked Nicholson to retrieve a .45 caliber pistol from a relative, Parker said during the hearing. Nicholson and Primus were given the weapon at McKoy’s home, which they delivered to McKoy at the motel.
McKoy’s body was found the next morning two miles from Primus’ home. The bullets retrieved from his body were determined to have been fired by the same firearm, either a .38 or .357 Magnum.
On Sept. 15, 2009, Primus was arrested by the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office and charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon for involvement in the robbery of a Family Dollar store in Robeson County. When searched, a .45 caliber handgun, identified by McKoy’s family member as the gun given to Primus and Nicholson, was found on Primus’ person.
“When the defendant Primus was interviewed that day concerning his knowledge of the crime, he denied even knowing the victim,” said Parker. “Later, he did admit knowing the victim and claimed that he had found the .45 caliber pistol on railroad tracks.”
A witness interviewed by Scotland County authorities reported that he witnessed Primus handling a .45 caliber pistol and a .357 Magnum at his home within days of McKoy’s death, using gloves when holding the weapons.
“He described those weapons and he also said that in the bag was a Jesus medallion,” Parker said. “When police questioned the victim’s family, they learned that the victim was known to wear this medallion, but it was not found on his body. … The murder weapon for Mr. McKoy has never been found; the state has reason to believe that it probably was the .357 that was in the bag.”
Parker also read a letter written by McKoy’s aunt April McKoy, which read that “Chris was a wonderful, loving, and caring person. He loved life and he loved to make you laugh.”
Primus’ plea was accepted by Judge Richard T. Brown, who finalized a sentence of 15-19 years with credit for Primus’ pre-trial confinement.
Acccording to North Carolina General Statue, sentences for first-degree murder are either life in prison or death.
Valdez, 55, faces charges of first-degree murder after the death of Patel, his girlfriend, on Oct. 6, 2012.
Valdez was initially charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury after beating his girlfriend Judith Patel in their McRae Street home. Patel was found inside the residence on Sept. 5, 2012 having been severely beaten, according to police reports at the time. She was taken to Scotland Memorial Hospital and later transferred to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where she died.
The charges against Valdez were then upgraded to murder.
Defended by state Assistant Capital Defender Nora Henry Hargrove, the native of Mexico was deemed unfit to withstand prosecution due to an inability to understand the proceedings or assist in his own defense.
That ruling was based primarily upon an evaluation of Valdez by Dr. Mark Hazelrigg, a forensic psychologist at Central Regional Psychiatric Hospital in Butner.
“Dr. Hazelrigg noted numerous issues impinging on the defendant’s capacity to proceed, including cultural and language comprehension issues, but also and perhaps more significantly, active psychosis and low cognitive functioning,” Brown said.
Among Valdez’s hallucinations, according to Hargrove, is the persistent illusion that, after his arrest, Patel left the hospital, came to the Scotland County Jail, and posted his bond.
Brown ruled that Valdez shall be committed to Central Regional Hospital or a similar facility and, if discharged, returned to custody of Scotland County Sheriff’s Department to face murder charges.
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