Local News

1976 murder conviction goes before NC Innocence Commission

Posted June 2, 2014

— The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission is hearing this week the case of a Durham man convicted more than 30 years ago of killing a Granville County convenience store clerk.

Willie Henderson Womble, 60, was sentenced in 1976 to 80 years in prison for the Nov. 18, 1975, death of Roy Brent Bullock, who was shot three times during a robbery in Butner.

Monday's hearing was prompted after Womble's co-defendant, Joseph Perry, wrote a letter to the Innocence Commission – a state-run agency that investigates post-conviction claims of innocence – saying Womble was not involved in the crime.

Witnesses told the Innocence Commission that Womble signed a confession, written by investigators, out of fear, thinking that he otherwise might face the death penalty. He later told police in as many as eight other interviews, however, that he had nothing to do with Bullock's death.

Womble is expected to testify Tuesday.

Perry, who was also convicted of first-degree murder, testified Monday that he decided to come forward only because the man he says was actually with him during the crime has died.

It was Albert Willis – who passed away in December 2012 – not Womble who was with Perry driving around looking for places to rob when they decided on Bullock's store.

Perry said he shot Bullock twice in the mouth and once in the chest after the clerk allegedly made a racial remark during the robbery.

He never told on Willis, he said, because they two had "a code."

"It was our pact during that time. If I got caught, I would do the time," Perry said. "I would never implicate him."

The 60-year-old Perry said he knew of Womble only from their neighborhood, that he thought he was "slow" and that he could not figure out why Womble would insert himself into the case.

"It’s time to the right thing. I don’t have to implicate Al, because Al is passed." Perry said. "Now mind you, I still don't particularly care about (Womble), but I do care about doing the right thing."

If the majority of the eight-member panel of the Innocence Commission panel agrees that Womble's case has merit, it will go on to a special three-judge panel for judicial review.

Since the Innocence Commission began in 2007, it has received more than 1,600 claims that have resulted in four people, including Greg Taylor in 2010 and Willie Grimes in 2012, being exonerated for crimes.

Taylor spent nearly 17 years in prison for the 1991 beating death of a Raleigh woman, but his sentence was vacated after a judicial panel found that a State Bureau of Investigation agent failed to report a negative blood test in the case.

Grimes was freed after serving 24 years in prison on a rape conviction involving a Hickory woman in 1987. In that case, two fingerprints found at the home where the rape happened were linked to another man, who has been charged with several rapes during the 1970s.


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  • 678devilish Jun 4, 2014

    If he is innocent, I pray that can prove it and set this man free. Also if he freed, NC will have to pay him the number of years he spent behind bars.

  • disgusted2010 Jun 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Hate law enforcement much?

  • James Kirby Jun 3, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Totally agree. Its a career to them and the way to advance is to close cases. I wont say a word to LE without my attorney present. Not gonna give them any chance to railroad me

  • Lightfoot3 Jun 3, 2014

    "he could not figure out why Womble would insert himself into the case" - article

    Well, did he say that Womble wasn't involved way back when? Seems he could have said that and still not implicate his partner. I'm not sure I'm buying it. What other evidence, other than the confession, do they have?

  • stymieindurham Jun 2, 2014

    Perry testified Monday that he decided to come forward after another man who actually committed the crime with him died.
    This is the person that caused him to do 30 years in prison. NOT the system. If he's released, WE should NOT have to pay him a penny.

  • Brandon White Jun 2, 2014
    user avatar

    I work a lot with lawyers as a business owner. They have stated the judicial system we think is in place is not, it has changed dramatically. Innocent until proven guilty has been replaced by guilty until YOU prove your innocence.

    Only a fool cooperates with LE if they want to question you. Shut up and obtain a lawyer before you say anything.

  • gotnoid Jun 2, 2014

    Not a good Ideer to make your doe by rolling in to bucks.

  • gotnoid Jun 2, 2014

    Not a good Ideer to make your doe by rolling in to bucks.

  • Chase Truman Jun 2, 2014
    user avatar

    If Womble really didn't do the crime, I hope he gets exonerated and can at least have the chance to live out the rest of his life free. It's very sad to hear about cases f innocent people being locked up for crimes they never committed.

  • Edward Levy Jun 2, 2014
    user avatar

    I wonder what evidence was presented to have a jury find him guilty. Does Perry have a true guilty conscience or just trying to get Mr Womble off. If womble is truly innocent, how do you give the man back a lost life of 30 years Was the person who died the real guilty party in this crime. Lots of questions