LUMBERTON — A Fayetteville man has been sentenced to at least 25 years in prison for the 2013 murder of a 22-year-old man at a Lumberton playground.
Clarence W. Roberts, 41, was found guilty by a Robeson County jury on charges of second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He will serve 25 to 31 years in prison for the murder of Joshua Floyd Council in 2013.
A jury took six hours to determine a heavily intoxicated Roberts opened fire at the basketball court and playground on Peachtree Street in Lumberton and killed Council and wounded others. Two sets of charges regarding other alleged victims were dismissed after they decided not to testify.
District Attorney Johnson Britt described the case against Roberts as “circumstantial,” saying there was no direct evidence or eye witness testimony identifying him as the shooter. Rather, a description given to Lumberton police working the scene matched Roberts and his car. Immediately after the shooting another person identified Roberts as the man fleeing the in the same car.
Roberts also made comments that contradicted his own alibi in recorded jailhouse conversations, according to Britt.
“He really kind of put himself in the playground,” Britt said. “He told his girlfriend he must have blacked out … . He placed many calls at the jail saying ‘get me out.’ He never denied the crime on the calls.”
Roberts agreed with his girlfriend on one call that he had “gotten himself in trouble” by getting drunk and driving toward the playground.
“The circumstances of the case are unusual in that we have a case where someone randomly opens fire and puts so many people in danger,” Britt said.
The jury opted to convict Roberts of second-degree murder, not the original charge of first-degree murder.
Jurors spoke with the District Attorney’s Office after the trial and said they were not convinced by an alibi witness who said they were in another part of town drinking heavily at the time of the crime, Britt said.
The night of the murder Roberts ran his car off the road and was arrested and jailed for driving while intoxicated.
Since being jailed, Roberts has gone through an Alcoholics Anonymous program and received his GED diploma, Britt said.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly