02/28/12 — Man, 28, pleads guilty to murder

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Man, 28, pleads guilty to murder

By From staff reports
Published in News on February 28, 2012 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Anthony Nay Smith, 28, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Ashley Ann Mercer, 19, of Pink Hill on Monday in Duplin County Superior Court.

Smith was sentenced by Judge Jack Jenkins of Carteret County to 150-189 months maximum in the prison.

Evidence provided in court showed that on Oct. 19, 2008, Ms. Mercer was found dead in the backseat of her car on Church Road in Pink Hill.

The vehicle had been driven to her home by the Smith, who told investigators that they had been drinking at the home John and Steven Lockerman in Beulaville when Ms. Mercer became loud and John Lockerman asked them to leave.

Smith said he put his hand over her mouth until she stopped moving and that he thought she was unconscious. Smith indicated he just wanted her to be quiet. He then indicated that he and Steven Lockerman carried the victim to the car and he put her in head first into the backseat. He then drove 6 miles while the victim's foot was outside the car, dragging on the road.

Pathologist Dr. William Kelly performed an autopsy on Ms. Mercer and testified that he found deep abrasions to the toes of her left foot, contusions and abrasions to her face consistent with blunt trauma and lacerations to the inside of both lips consistent with injury from her teeth. Dr. Kelly determined that the cause of death was asphyxia secondary to suffocation.

Lockerman denied helping carry the victim to the car. Alcohol was being consumed by the defendant and victim at the time of the offense and appeared to have been a contributing factor in leading to the actions of the defendant, investigators determined. However, based upon the evidence, there was sufficient evidence to charge the defendant with an open count of murder.

The state was represented by Assistant District Attorney Kelly B. Neal. The defendant was represented by attorney Scott Jack of Jacksonville.