Shooter up for parole after 18 years
By Jack Stephens
Published in News on July 7, 2006 1:50 PM
By JACK STEPHENS
News-Argus Staff Writer
A 71-year-old LaGrange man serving a life sentence after being convicted of first-degree murder is being considered for parole by the N.C. Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission.
Bill Vester Coker was convicted Jan. 26, 1988, by a Wayne County Superior Court jury for the fatal shooting of Wayne "Red" Smith on Jan. 20, 1987.
Another man, Ralph Harvey Barfield, then 63, of Fourth Street in Goldsboro, also was charged with first-degree murder. He was acquitted by the same jury.
Coker could have been convicted of second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.
Several witnesses testified during the two-week trial that Coker had fired the fatal shot. Smith was found by sheriff's deputies on the floor of his brother's mobile home in Hood Swamp.
An undercover State Bureau of Investigation agent testified that the shooting stemmed from an earlier drug buy.
Smith's nephew, Dennis Smith, testified that Coker had told him that he suspected Smith had set him up with the selling of drugs to an undercover officer. Nine days before the shooting, Coker was arrested on drug charges and sentenced to three years in prison. He served about six months. He was tried for the murder after his release from prison.
Coker is being considered for parole through the Mutual Agreement Parole Program, or MAPP, a scholastic and vocational program. MAPP is a three-way agreement among the commission, the state Division of Prisons and the offender.
Information gathered during the investigation from persons for and against parole and the facts of the case will be considered by the commission in making its decision. Anyone who wants to comment on the case was asked to call the Parole Commission at 919-716-3010 or write to the commission at 2020 Yonkers Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-4222.
The state's current structured sentencing law eliminated parole for all people convicted on or after Oct. 1, 1994. But the commission has the responsibility of paroling offenders sentenced under previous guidelines.
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