Kennedy McLaurin Jr. timeline
By John Joyce
Published in News on March 30, 2014 1:50 AM
* Sept. 9, 2012 -- Just after 1 p.m., Tonya Prior, a Bain Street resident, calls 911 to report a group of men fighting in a car outside. She tells the operator she heard a gun shot.
* Sept. 10, 2012-- 2:15 p.m. -- Kim Best reports her son, Kennedy Fitzgerald McLaurin Jr., missing to the Goldsboro Police Department. According to the missing persons report, Ms. Best has been told some Eastern Wayne High School students abducted her son -- one of them goes by the name "Charlie Brown."
* Sept. 11, 2012 -- Investigator Dwayne Bevell of the Goldsboro Police Department Criminal Investigations Division is assigned to the case.
* Sept. 12, 2012 -- A statewide Amber Alert is issued with a description of McLaurin. The narrative says that McLaurin was forced by three to four black men into a bluish-gray 1990s model four-door Buick or Lincoln in the 700 block of Bain Street on Sept. 9. A representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Fayetteville is dispatched to Goldsboro to assist in the search and a 24-hour tip line is established. Bevell identifies Antonio "Mel" King and Diamond Sampson as people of interest in the case.
* Sept. 13, 2012 -- King arrives at the GPD headquarters and tells Bevell about the drug deal he arranged on Bain Street the day the victim went missing. King, Sampson and McLaurin went to the Woodcrest housing area to sell marijuana, he said, adding that McLaurin jogged the drugs over to a car waiting on Bain Street and never came back. Bevell asks King to convince Sampson to speak with him. King agrees.
* Sept. 14, 2012 -- Sampson calls Bevell and corroborates King's story. Sampson agrees to take Bevell to the scene on Bain Street, but refuses to meet with him at the GPD. Bevell goes with Sampson and later meets with Ms. Best to update her on the investigation. He discovers she has been following up on leads on her own and tells her she is putting herself in danger and to let the police handle it.
* Sept. 15, 2012 -- Bevell, working alone on a Saturday, checks the hotline and receives a tip -- a name that came up earlier in the investigation and was not released to the public.
The name Leonard Joyner is "in the system" -- the young man had a police record -- and Bevell goes to Joyner's residence out in the county, but gets no answer at the door. Neighbors direct the detective to the nearby neighborhood of Hickory Hills and, with assistance from the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, he ends up at the home of Curtis Ethridge, a friend of Joyner's. He shows Betty Ethridge, Curtis' grandmother, a photo of Joyner. She begins to cry. She tells Bevell she will try to get her grandson to call him. Joyner and Ethridge are now suspects in what Bevell believes has just become a homicide investigation.
* Sept. 16, 2012 -- It has been one week since McLaurin disappeared from Bain Street -- Bevell is at church when he is called back to the GPD headquarters. Another tip has come in, this time telling Bevell where to find Joyner. Bevell goes to the residence of Josh Carter who, at first, denies Joyner is there. A few moments later, Joyner comes outside. He agrees to come down to the station for questioning. A sheriff's deputy drives Joyner, and due to policy, he has to be handcuffed while riding in the deputy's car, but Bevell removes the cuffs before Joyner enters the GPD headquarters. Joyner is given a tour of the facilities, given free reign to move about, and told he is free to leave at anytime. Then, in a recorded interview, he denies any knowledge of the incident -- and says that he was with Carter at a tattoo shop that day. Bevell asks Joyner for a statement and for names and numbers of the people he knows to be involved. Joyner gives Bevell a statement but it does not include any of the information he asked for.
* Sept. 17, 2012 -- Bevell stands behind Ms. Best at a press conference held at GPD headquarters. She pleads for her son to be returned to her. Later that day, Bevell's attempts to contact Joyner go unanswered, so he returns to the home of Betty Ethridge. She gets her grandson on the phone and Bevell asks him to come talk to him. Ms. Ethridge said she could have him home in two days.
* Sept. 18, 2012 -- Bevell continues to search for the blue vehicle but nothing turns up. He then returns to Carter's home and says Carter seems nervous. When he gets back to the station, Carter has called asking to speak to him.
* Sept. 19, 2012 -- Bevell speaks with Carter and the young man comes clean about Joyner's alibi -- that it is fabricated. He says he and Joyner watched an episode of "CSI" the night McLaurin disappeared and ended up discussing how to get rid of a body. He also tells Bevell there was some mention of a field and that Jerome Butts was involved. The detective, later that day, drives around the county -- stopping any time he sees buzzards circling the air.
* Sept. 20, 2012 -- Bevell, armed with information he obtained from Carter, arrives at Butts' home. Butts is not there, but pulls up in a vehicle just moments after Bevell arrives. A Wayne County Sheriff's office helicopter hovers above and a GPD crime unit van is parked nearby along with several police and deputy cruisers. "It's over," Bevell tells him. Butts then takes the detective to the car in which McLaurin was allegedly abducted. It is parked next to a shed behind a trailer off of Deluxe Drive, concealed under a tree canopy. The vehicle had been stripped bare, save for a single seat. Its contents lie burned in a pile near the vehicle. Butts then leads Bevell to a dirt path off Carmack Road in Seven Springs and tells him the location is where he will find McLaurin's body.
* Sept. 21, 2012 -- Bevell interviews Kevin Smith, the last remaining suspect in the case. Bevell has been to the first burial site and found it empty. Smith, initially reluctant to speak, corroborates Butts' story. Joyner, Butts and Smith are arrested. The second burial site is identified, but the sunlight fades before investigators can work to unearth the remains of the victim.
* Sept. 22, 2012 -- Curtis Ethridge is arrested. McLaurin's body is recovered and sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill. Bevell hands the case over to the District Attorney's Office.