12/18/06 — Two get time for beating, throwing man in river

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Two get time for beating, throwing man in river

By Lee Williams
Published in News on December 18, 2006 1:45 PM

Two Wayne County men who allegedly beat, stabbed and tossed a man into the Little River and left him for dead in February will face prison time for their involvement.

Tommy Hase Johnston, 31, of Hinnant Road, Pikeville, and Larry Stevenson Brown Jr., 32, of Stevens Mill Road, originally were charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury for the attempted murder of Shawn Michael Foreman, 24, of Pony Drive, Pikeville.

The men allegedly attacked Foreman during a fight Feb. 7 using their hands, feet and a knife.

Both men had criminal pasts, but after reaching a plea agreement with the Wayne County District Attorney's Office, Brown and Johnston pleaded guilty to fewer charges in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Brown pleaded guilty Nov. 27 to assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injuries. The remaining charges were dismissed.

Wayne County Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell sentenced Brown to serve 80 to 105 months in prison.

Johnston, who was considered uncooperative with authorities, pleaded guilty Dec. 6 to attempted first-degree murder. The other charges were dismissed. He was ordered to serve 176 to 221 months in prison.

The convictions marked an end to a case launched 10 months ago after officials received a 911 call notifying authorities there had been a possible murder. Wayne County sheriff's deputies responded to the home where the 911 calls were made. Deputies managed to stop the departing group who allegedly made plans to leave the state, officials said.

Former Deputy Matt Sasser spotted a white Ford Mustang near the intersection of Holland Hill Drive and Rosewood Road. He activated his blue lights and stopped the vehicle in front of 204 Holland Hill Drive.

Johnston was behind the wheel of the car. Brown and Christy Lynn Nagy were passengers in the car owned by Carol Anderson Simpson, court records said.

Johnston was charged for driving while license revoked. Brown was transported to the Wayne Memorial Hospital for treatment of apparent stab wounds.

Detective Sgt. Dean Roscoe interviewed Brown at the hospital and learned how the saga began. Brown told Roscoe he and Foreman got into a fight. Brown allegedly received stab wounds to the leg during the clash. That's when Johnston stepped in and allegedly assaulted Foreman.

Foreman was robbed at gunpoint, placed in a trunk, transported to Capps Bridge Road, thrown in the water unconscious at about 3:30 a.m. and left for dead.

Using information from Brown, Roscoe used the GIS Mapping Program to locate Foreman.

"Detective Sgt. Ray Brogden arrived on scene at Capps Bridge Road and found Foreman alive in the water and clinging to a tree limb," according to court records.

Brogden secured a towrope and was able to get the rope around the victim.

Officials rescued Foreman from Little River and transported him to Wayne Memorial Hospital. Foreman's eye sockets and other portions of his face were crushed during the beating, officials said. He was later transported to UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill for further treatment.

Foreman had been in the water for four hours before he was rescued, officials said.

"Doctors said if he would have stayed in the water for 15 more minutes, he would have died," said Wayne County Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth, who prosecuted the case.

Detectives and other officials arrived to process the crime scene. A blanket, two white trashbags with pools of blood, bloody clothing, vodka, beer and other items were found inside of the Mustang, according to court records. A bloody knife also was recovered at the scene.

The men later were charged in connection with Foreman's attempted murder.

Sheriff Carey Winders said doctors called Foreman's survival "remarkable."

"However, the low temperature waters in the river probably prevented the victim from a higher level of shock," Winders said.

Attempts to reach the Foreman family for comment were unsuccessful, but Ms. Kroboth agreed Foreman's survival was nothing short of a miracle. She added that the victim might never fully recover.

Court records show Foreman racked up more than $700,000 in medical bills as a result of the beating, officials said.

Titanium has been used to repair Foreman's facial damage, Ms. Kroboth said.

Although it was her work that helped win two convictions for the state, Ms. Kroboth said she did not want to take any credit.

"The real hero in this case is the person who called 911 and reported there had been a possible murder," Ms. Kroboth said.