03/22/14 — McLaurin investigation detailed in court

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McLaurin investigation detailed in court

By Kenneth Fine and John Joyce
Published in News on March 22, 2014 11:27 PM

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Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge watches as a video recording of Det. Dwayne Bevell interviewing Leonard Joyner on September 16, 2012, plays for the jury Friday.

Time and time again, Leonard Eugene Joyner swore he had nothing to do with it.

But Goldsboro Police Department Det. Dwayne Bevell wasn't convinced.

So he kept asking him to "tell the truth" -- shouting expletives and using words like "evil" -- to get the response he was looking for.

"I know what the hell happened out there," Bevell said. "If nobody talks to me ... I am forced to make them out to be completely evil."

Joyner didn't bend.

"I heard some Eastern Wayne dudes was messin' with him," he said. "I wish I could tell you more. I swear I was not in that car. I was not there."

The 12 Wayne County residents charged with deciding the fate of one of four men implicated in the alleged murder of 16-year-old Kennedy McLaurin Jr. heard from the defendant for the first time Friday afternoon.

But Joyner was not on the witness stand when he told Bevell, repeatedly, that he had no first-hand knowledge associated with the young man's Sept. 9, 2012, disappearance.

His voice, instead, blared over loudspeakers connected to a television sitting in front of the jury box as a video-recorded Sept. 16, 2012, interview played out for the jurors' consideration.

Before Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge hit play, Bevell told the court that Joyner was not under arrest at the time the interview took place -- but that he had received information from a 24-hour tipline that gave him reason to believe the young man was involved.

The detective told the defendant the same thing.

"Good people, great people, make mistakes. ... I need you to tell me what the (expletive) happened in that car," Bevell could be heard saying. "Don't bull (expletive) me. You need to help yourself."

Bevell took the stand after jurors had already endured two full days of expert witness testimony and sifted through nearly 300 crime scene photos -- among them, shots of McLaurin's body as it was being recovered from a shallow grave.

Four members of the jury shed tears as they viewed those particular images.

Bevell told the court that he was assigned to the McLaurin case Sept. 11, 2012, and recounted, until his testimony was halted by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones until Monday morning, every step of his investigation leading up to the taped interview with Joyner played in court Friday.

Joyner's attorney, Charles Gurley, objected throughout the testimony.

Bevell said that during the first week of the investigation, he and the Goldsboro Police Department Investigation Division were inundated with phone calls -- tips and potential sightings of the boy then thought to be missing -- some from as far away as Pennsylvania.

A command center and hotline were set up.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sent a liaison.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office pitched in wherever it could.

Persons of interest were identified.

Charlie Brown, later determined to be an alias for Charlie Atkinson, was eventually ruled out as a suspect.

So was Tyrone Washington.

And Antonio "Mel" King and Diamond Sampson -- the two men who said they rode with McLaurin to the site of what they characterized as a drug deal gone bad -- cooperated.

Bevell testified that he spent countless hours wading through tips, interviews, cruising school parking lots and area neighborhoods looking for the vehicle in which McLaurin was last seen.

Then, a break in the case finally came via the tipline -- when Bevell hears a name from an anonymous caller, a name he first heard mentioned early on his investigation and hadn't uttered to anybody.

Levi, a.k.a. Levi Montana, a.k.a. Leonard Joyner.