01/10/10 — Two more charged in man's beating death

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Two more charged in man's beating death

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 10, 2010 1:50 AM

Tara Sparks

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Joseph Lanier

Two more Goldsboro residents have been implicated in the murder of Jamie Lee Hinson, 35, whose body was found in Evergreen Cemetery Dec. 3, in a condition that required DNA testing to identify him.

The two people now charged, Tara Leann Sparks, 29, and Joseph E. Lanier, 21, of Fourth Street, are roommates of Steven Lynn Barbour, 29, who has already been charged in the case.

Lanier and Ms. Sparks, like Barbour, were jailed without bond after the Wayne County Sheriff's Office filed murder charges against them late Friday.

Both were also charged with two allegedly set fires, and face two counts each of "burning of certain buildings," felonies that Sheriff's Office detectives allege are also connected to Barbour.

The two "suspicious" fires caused an estimated $100,000 in structure and property damage to an abandoned home in the 400 block of Antioch Road and to a storage facility on Wayne Memorial Drive, both in the Saulston area of Wayne County.

Authorities would not say if they believe the alleged arsons, at locations within five miles of one another, had anything to do with Hinson's murder. The first fire took place at the Antioch Road home on Dec. 27, the second at the Wayne Memorial Drive storage facility on Dec. 30, arson investigator and Detective Sgt. Shawn Harris said.

Hinson was last seen alive at the Doll Palace in Selma, a "gentleman's club," on the night of Dec. 2 and in the early morning hours of Dec. 3.

The Sheriff's Office previously released a photo of a white van, which Hinson and another man reportedly used to drive to and from the Doll Palace. The van, authorities said, turned out to not be connected to Hinson's murder.

Authorities have not released a possible motive in Hinson's death. They have also not said whether Ms. Sparks, Lanier or Barbour were with Hinson at the gentleman's club.

On the morning of Dec. 3, Hinson's father awoke to find his son had not returned, and immediately called authorities because it was unusual for Hinson not to return to his parents' Princeton home.

Investigators have said little about the manner of death, but indicated that Hinson's body was unrecognizable when it was found in a western quadrant of Evergreen Cemetery. Genetic testing to prove the body was Hinson took about two weeks to complete.

The sector of the graveyard where Hinson was found, which is visible from an adjacent roadway, is an open spot where few graves have been erected.

Although little has been released about how Hinson was killed, Capt. Tom Effler said he could confirm Friday morning that a gun was not involved.

Previously, no information about a possible murder weapon had been released.

Detective Sgts. Richard Winders and Larry N. Mitchell had been working the case since Dec. 3, and Sheriff Carey Winders said he put the investigation on the highest priority. Both detectives took on no more assignments in lieu of finding the people responsible for Hinson's death, authorities said.

Authorities also offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in Hinson's death.

After Barbour's arrest, authorities said they believed the two roommates would soon be in custody on similar charges.

Harris, the arson investigator, had said early Friday that Ms. Sparks and Lanier "are probably going to be charged with the fires."

The sheriff called investigation of the case difficult, because authorities were working without a positive identification of the murder victim.

Winders said every possible resource was used in the inquiry into Hinson's death, involving authorities from the Johnston County Sheriff's Office, Selma, Smithfield and Princeton police and agents with the State Bureau of Investigation.

The sheriff himself also worked late nights with investigators, assisting in interviews, the detectives assigned to the case said.

The case had been somewhat frustrating, because much of the information received led detectives to dead ends, the sheriff said.

"We followed a lot of leads that ended up not being connected to it," Winders said, adding that he appreciated every piece of information provided by the public.

"It's just as important to eliminate something as a possibility as it is to actually find a lead that leads to an arrest," the sheriff said.