08/28/05 — Wilson says he didn't have reason to kill

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Wilson says he didn't have reason to kill

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on August 28, 2005 2:02 AM

Leandren Andre Wilson, a first-degree murder defendant, told police investigators and others he did not have a reason to kill Corey Grantham last summer.

The revelations came as part of the continuing testimony in the murder case against Wilson.

He is charged with the July 2004 shooting death of Grantham in front of a local nightclub.

Wilson made the comment during an interview with the State Bureau of Investigation after he was arrested in Benson.

The 28-year-old Goldsboro man also was overheard telling two women in the Wayne County magistrates' waiting room on July 14, 2004: "They didn't charge me with first-degree, so maybe I can plead to manslaughter."

Goldsboro police Investigator Paul VanWijk testified Friday in Wayne County Superior Court he overheard Wilson make the comment as the defendant was being charged and taken to jail.

Defense lawyer Louis Jordan of Goldsboro strenuously objected to the testimony, but Judge Jay D. Hockenbury of Wilmington overruled the objection.

"It was clear from the evidence that the conversation that the officer overheard wasn't made to law enforcement but to the two females," he said. "It was a voluntary statement, and there was no need for a Miranda warning."

VanWijk said when he returned to the waiting room, the women were gone, and he never found them.

On the ride back from Benson, another officer said Wilson had inquired several times about what he was charged with. He was told he was being held on an open charge of murder.

The 26-year-old Grantham, who lived in Goldsboro but used his mother's Pikeville address, was murdered with a single gunshot to the head July 11, 2004. Neither the bullet nor the murder weapon were recovered. The victim's body was found in the grass between Clingman Street and the parking lot at the Quality Inn on Corporate Drive.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Wilson would be sentenced to life in prison without parole. He does not face the death penalty.

Wilson told Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Rea of the SBI he did not kill Grantham, but he admitted he had gone to the Paradise Club that was across Clingman Street from the Quality Inn. As the club closed, Wilson said he saw Tory Thompson, with whom he had feuded over the local drug trade. Thompson had testified he saw Wilson shoot Grantham.

Wilson said Thompson didn't belong on the defendant's side of town and that someone might shoot him. The defendant went on, saying Grantham got out of a red minivan and tried to calm them down and then a women also told Grantham to stay out of the argument. Later, the 5-foot-4-inch Wilson said he would fight Thompson, 6 feet 1 inch, "straight up," meaning there would be no weapons. They fought briefly, with Wilson backing away. Wilson said a shot rang out, and he hit the ground. He said he looked up and saw Grantham dead.

Wilson also told Rea that he fled to a liquor house on Carolina Street and then went to his sister's house in Goldsboro and finally to Benson, where he was arrested three days later.

During cross-examination, Rea said the weapons that were recovered in the minivan Grantham had driven to the club and a sport utility vehicle in the club parking lot were not analyzed. Rea said Officer Dave Cloutier had watched the SUV because police learned there were a weapon and drugs inside and knew the weapon had not been used in the killing. Rea said the bullets recovered in the grass also were not analyzed.

Cloutier testified earlier about the wild scene outside of the club, with hundreds of people leaving at about the time shots were fired. He said he could see the muzzle flash and from where the shots came. He said a second set of shots came from the hotel parking lot. He then testified he pulled alongside Grantham, whom he knew, and saw a woman trying to revive him.

Benson police Detective Sarah Harris said her office was tipped Wilson might be in her city. She got his photo from Goldsboro police and spotted him going into an apartment. The woman resident admitted her boyfriend and another man were inside. The defendant was found on a bed but said his last name was Weeks, the same as the woman.

Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth is expected to finish the state's case Monday morning. Then the defense will have its turn.