09/21/12 — Robber gets 16 years for 2010 home invasion

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Robber gets 16 years for 2010 home invasion

By John Joyce
Published in News on September 21, 2012 1:46 PM

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Travis Antonia Harris Jr. listens as lawyers argue his fate in Wayne County Superior Court on Thursday. Harris was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Travis Antonia Harris Jr., 21, will spend no less than 16 years in prison for his part in a brutal attack and robbery of an elderly Goldsboro couple, a Wayne County jury decided Thursday.

Harris was charged with breaking into the home of George and Mary Peele, who are both in their late 70s, on Nov. 4, 2010.

That attack left George Peele severely beaten. Several days later, he suffered a stroke.

Thursday, with a walker and an oxygen tank, Peele sat in the courtroom as the sentence was read -- the second in connection with the case.

The lifetime Goldsboro residents, and owners of the local favorite roadside lunch spot, George's Grill, are still coping with the aftermath.

Mrs. Peele, who was also in the courtroom Thursday, was thrown against the wall during the robbery. But she said the trauma of seeing her husband assaulted has stayed with her long after her own bruises faded.

"Having to stand there and watch every lick, first with the rifle ... ," she said.

She described his facial wounds and the blood pooled on the floor.

Harris and Alfonzo Mack, who has already been convicted of the crime, forced their way into the Peeles' Central Heights Road home.

District Attorney Sandy Meyer recounted the hostility of the attack in her summation to the jury.

"He busted in. He pointed a gun at her head. He said, 'where is your... money,'" Ms. Meyer said.

She said Harris struck Peele in the face with the butt of his rifle and punched him repeatedly.

Ms. Meyer said Harris then took off the senior's belt and tossed it at Mrs. Peele, ordering her to tie her husband up.

The defense did not refute the charges, but offered instead that Harris was not guilty because he acted under duress.

According to the defense, Harris was held at gunpoint by the man who orchestrated the crime, Bakari Maurice Teachy, and told he had to commit the robbery with Mack.

Teachy allegedly dropped the pair off near the Peeles' home and waited until he saw police responding. At that point, he abandoned the two and fled. Harris and Mack tried to escape, but were run down and caught by sheriff's deputies.

Mack pleaded guilty in August and was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.

Teachy is set to go to trial sometime in October. He previously rented property from the Peeles and knew they had valuables.

Although they didn't know that Mack had tried the same defense before his plea deal, saying that Harris and Teachy forced him into the burglary, the jury didn't buy the defense's explanation of the events.

The district attorney argued that Harris never tried to flee or call for help. Instead he beat and detained the Peeles and, when asked during the trial why he didn't just attempt to run home, he made an excuse.

"Because he 'was a couple miles from his house and it was raining outside,"' Ms. Meyer told jurors.

She said at no time did Harris tell police, or even his mother, that he had been coerced. That is, not until the trial.

Following the sentencing, Ms. Meyer said that she was pleased with the outcome and that Harris was a "different kind of bad."

"This man is violent. He physically and mentally hurt (the victims)," she said.

As Judge Walter Godwin handed down the sentence, both the Peele family and Harris' mother shed tears.

They hugged after the sentencing and went their separate ways.

She will have a son in jail for the better part of the next two decades.

Harris was convicted of breaking and entering, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to seriously injure, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery, and two counts of second-degree kidnapping.

His sentences for each crime will run consecutively.

The Peele family still has another trial to endure.