03/26/06 — Bridge will be named in honor of Jerry Best

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Bridge will be named in honor of Jerry Best

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on March 26, 2006 2:01 AM


News-Argus Staff Writer

The new U.S. 117 bridge over U.S. 70 will be dedicated this week and named for the late Wayne County Sheriff's Capt. Jerry K. Best. The ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Wayne Center.

State Department of Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett will join local officials and the Sheriff's Office in renaming the bridge.

Best, who was 48, will be honored for his loyalty, dedication and service to the citizens of Wayne County.

Best, a 25-year veteran with the Sheriff's Office, was killed Nov. 13, 2002, in the line of duty. He was trying to remove a deer that had been struck by another car on N.C. 581, about four-tenths of a mile north of the traffic light at Cherry Hospital, when he was hit by a passing car. Best had shot the deer to put it out of its misery.

Best was rushed by ambulance to Wayne Memorial Hospital but died during emergency surgery.

The elderly driver of the car that struck Best was not charged.

Best was one of a few deputies who had had worked under three sheriffs, the late Will Adams; James Sasser, who defeated Adams in an election and then retired in 1994, and the current sheriff, Carey Winders.

Best had spent much of his early law-enforcement career either as a patrol deputy or as a drug enforcement officer. He was promoted to detective sergeant and then to captain in charge of the investigations division in 1999 after Steve Harmon resigned.

Best might be best known for his investigation of the Terence Garner case with former Detective Sgt. Bobby Braswell. Garner, a Goldsboro teenager, was accused of taking part in the armed robbery of a now-defunct finance company on U.S. 70, just inside Johnston County.

Garner was convicted and sentenced to 32 to 43 years in prison for the 1997 holdup with two other men.

Not until the case was publicized on national television in the PBS documentary, "Frontline," was interest rekindled in Garner's plight.

Best believed that Garner was innocent and that another man named Terrance had committed the crime.

The other man, Terrance Deloach, confessed to the crime but later recanted the confession. Meanwhile, he was arrested, charged and convicted of an armed robbery on a New York City subway.

Even the two other defendants said Garner did not accompany them, but a Johnston County judge refused to grant Garner a new trial.

Garner's appellate lawyers hired a private detective who found witnesses, Deloach's former girlfriend who was murdered, and another man to whom another man had confessed to the crime. At that point, a visiting judge set aside the verdict, and Johnston County District Attorney Tom Lock declined to prosecute Garner again.