02/08/13 — Two men accept deals in murder cases

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Two men accept deals in murder cases

By John Joyce
Published in News on February 8, 2013 1:46 PM

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Onza Lee Brown Jr.

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Andre Devon Weeks

Two men accused of murder accepted plea deals in Wayne County Superior Court this week.

Judge Arnold Jones sentenced Onza Lee Brown Jr, 35, to a maximum of 11 years in prison after the defendant pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon and speeding to elude arrest in connection with the fatal shooting of Howard Bennett Harper on Feb. 2, 2011.

Andre Devon Weeks pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Larry Donnell Mathis, 34, on New Year's Day 2011 and was sentenced by Jones to more than 30 years in prison.

Testimony indicated that Harper and his cousin, Joseph Perry Harper, were at their home at 123 Kathy Lane waiting to buy drugs from Brown. Howard Harper, midway through the drug deal taking place in his kitchen, produced a knife. Statements from Joseph Harper and from Brown differed on the details, but Howard was ultimately shot twice in the head and killed. Joseph Harper was also wounded before Brown fled.

A vehicle description given by Joseph Harper led to a traffic stop by Goldsboro police, intending to apprehend Brown, but he sped off as the officer was trying to obtain the suspect's license and registration.

Brown, according to the police report, drove more than 70 miles per hour down Ash Street and throughout the city as he tried to elude lawmen.

As he began to run out of gas, Brown pulled over and cut his wrists in a suicide attempt before giving himself up.

In the second case, Prosecutor Matt Delbridge said that Mathis ended up at a liquor house following some New Year's celebrations. While Mathis and friends were in the house, another man tried to force his way past security. The man, who had a gun, slipped the weapon to Weeks.

The security guard and the man who initially had the gun eventually squared off in the street preparing to fight. Weeks and Mathis scuffled and Mathis was shot, forced to the ground and then, Delbridge said, more shots were fired.

Hobbs' widow and mother pleaded with the court to give Weeks the maximum sentence for killing their husband and son. Annette Hobbs and Dollice Simms-Mathis begged between sobs for the judge to throw the book at Weeks.

When asked about allowing the family of the victim to speak, the judge said it is always his hope that the family, whether that of the victim or the defendant, will gain some relief.

"It's a factor," Jones said, but not one that genuinely impacts sentencing. "Everyone that comes in to the courtroom, whether it's the victim or the family or the defendant and his family, has somebody that loves them."