04/03/07 — Fremont murder suspect arrested

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Fremont murder suspect arrested

By Lee Williams
Published in News on April 3, 2007 2:08 PM

A Wilson man stands accused in the death of his girlfriend whose body was found at her cousin's house in Fremont Saturday.

Antonia Leatis Artis, 35, of Goldsboro Street, Wilson, faces an open count of murder in the death of his girlfriend, Shana Denise Hutchins, 28, of Fremont.

Fremont police and other emergency crews responded to 906 S. Goldsboro St. at about 6:45 p.m. and found Ms. Hutchins' body. A search for a possible suspect immediately ensued.

Fremont police Chief Ron Rawlings and agents from the North Carolina Bureau of Investigations worked through the night interviewing witnesses while crime scene technicians from the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the State Bureau of Investigations collected evidence at the murder scene.

It didn't take long for officers to close in on their suspect.

Artis and Ms. Hutchins allegedly had been involved in a confrontation just days before her murder, Rawlings said.

Rawlings declined to disclose her manner of death, but described it as a "violent murder." He also declined to disclose a motive for the killing.

"I'd rather not talk about a motive before the trial," he said. "I can think of several motives."

Ms. Hutchins, a mother of two, did not live at the home where she died. She had been staying with different relatives before her death and was considered a transient, Rawlings said.

Rawlings said Ms. Hutchins' death could have been avoided.

"There was an incident last week," Rawlings said. "He kicked her in the head a couple of times and threw her down the steps."

Rawlings said he received an anonymous tip about the incident and went to the hospital to interview Ms. Hutchins, but to no avail.

"She checked out, and she had been avoiding me," he said. "I had been trying to catch up with her for the last week."

Rawlings said Artis was on probation for assaulting Ms. Hutchins in the past. One of the terms of his probation was that Artis not hit her again.

When police determined Artis was allegedly responsible for Ms. Hutchins' murder, Wilson County sheriff's officials picked him up on a probation violation Sunday. They held him overnight until Fremont police obtained a murder warrant.

Artis was extradited back to Wayne County Monday.

Rawlings and an SBI agent held Artis by his arms as they emerged through the door of the Wayne County Magistrate's Office for a bond hearing about 4 p.m. Monday. Artis, who was dressed in an orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and leg irons, shuffled as he walked.

Senior Magistrate Judge Bill Buchanan, who presided over the hearing, told Artis that he was not authorized to set bond in a murder case.

"Bond will be set tomorrow morning by a district court judge," Buchanan said.

Artis, a food packing employee, did not speak, but shook his head. Artis was then led to the Wayne County Jail.

Rawlings took office March 5. This was his first murder case since taking office.

He said some potential witnesses tried to keep him from learning the facts of the case and that bothered him.

"Fremont has a reputation of clamming up whenever there's an investigation. That's bad," he said. "The code of the street is what's getting people killed."

Despite roadblocks, Rawlings and the investigators who assisted in the case remained steadfast.

"My motto is: I may not be the smartest person, but no one is going to outwork me," he said. "I spent 15 hours working on the case and conducting interviews and I feel confident, we got the right person."