06/23/05 — Witnesses saw man by creek

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Witnesses saw man by creek

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 23, 2005 1:45 PM

Two more witnesses said they saw an unidentified man near Nahunta Creek on the day 5-year-old Precious Whitfield disappeared.

The girl's body was found in the creek two days after she disappeared.

Eric Lane, 33, is on trial for her rape and murder.

Jay Fail and his wife, Brendalynn, testified Wednes-day in Wayne County Superior Court that they saw a man on a red scooter trying to pick up a blue tarpaulin with one hand and guide the scooter with the other hand.

The Fails said they saw the white man at the creek near the intersection of Lancaster and Big Daddy's roads at about 7:30 p.m. on May 17, 2002.

The Fails were the fourth and fifth witnesses to testify about seeing a man in the area at about the same time.

Precious Whitfield

Eric Lane is charged in connection with the death of Precious Whitfield, age 5.

Testimony did not start until 2 p.m. Wednesday. District Attorney Branny Vickory and Assistant District Attorney Terry Light, defense lawyers Glenn Barfield and Richard McNeil, Sheriff's Capt. George Raecher and Detective Sgt. Mike Kabler and the defendant were closeted at various times all morning with Judge Gary Trawick in his chambers.

At one point, the court reporter was called in to the chambers, apparently to record what was being discussed.

At mid-morning, Trawick apologized to the jurors for the delay.

"Complicated legal issues need to be resolved out of the public," Trawick said. "It's not all that unusual in a case like this."

He then excused the jury until 1 p.m.

The courtroom was locked until 2 p.m. Trawick again apologized "for things beyond our control." He added that he would explain the delay after the trial was over.

Jay Fail, a state corrections officer, testified that he saw a man riding a scooter with a blue tarp that fell off at the intersection, east of Pikeville. He said the tarp had to be heavy because the man tried to keep one hand on the scooter and needed several tries to pick up the tarp.

When Vickory asked Fail if there was something in the tarp, Fail replied, "Yes, it was wrapped tight."

Fail's wife corroborated her husband's testimony and described the man as being about 5-feet-10 with brownish auburn hair sticking out from a hat.

The Fails said they drove around the man and the scooter that was in the middle of the road.

Later during the afternoon, two Rhodes Funeral Home employees testified about their handling of Precious' body. Abdullah Whitaker, who now manages a funeral home in Georgia, took the body from the crime scene to Wayne Memorial Hospital. Derrick Platt, an embalmer, took the body to Chapel Hill for an autopsy and brought it back.

The day's final witness, Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Dean Roscoe, testified that he obtained a consent form from Lane to search the defendant's home on May 19, 2002. Roscoe said he took the defendant's red Kinetic scooter and kept it overnight until space could be found in the Sheriff's Office to store it. The next day Roscoe said he could see blue fibers on the scooter.

The scooter and the bike that was found in the creek have been displayed in the courtroom.

The day's first witness, Sam Sasser, answered a few final questions from Barfield. Sasser was one of the earlier witnesses who said they saw a man at the creek on the evening the girl disappeared.