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Guilty pleas likely to resolve some pending Wake murder cases

Posted August 14, 2014

— Wake County prosecutors and defense attorneys said Thursday that guilty pleas are likely in at least three murder cases.

Gavin Joseph Zacherl, 31, was charged in January with the stabbing death of his boyfriend, 28-year-old Andrew Jay Tongate, in their Lake Lynn Drive apartment. Prosecutors said they are waiting on some medical reports but that a plea deal is likely in the case.

Matthew Durwood Calton, 53, is charged with gunning down his landlord, Jay Gould “Jody” Simmons, in the parking lot of a Carquest auto parts store at 2635 E. Millbrook Road on Nov. 23 and later engaging in a shootout with police outside a Creedmoor Road shopping center. Defense attorney Duncan McMillan said they are negotiating a plea and would like to settle before Calton's Nov. 3 trial.

Cathy Lynne Lentini, 53, of Cartersville, Ga., was charged in October with beating 91-year-old Beulah Dickerson to death in her west Raleigh home in October 2001. Authorities said she also will likely accept a plea deal before trial.

Several other murder cases were discussed Thursday during status hearings at the Wake County Justice Center:

  • No date was set for the retrial of Brad Cooper in the July 2008 death of his wife, Nancy Cooper. His 2011 conviction was overturned on appeal, and his new attorneys couldn't estimate how long it will take to review the case file. Prosecutors said they offered a plea deal to Cooper before his first trial and are willing to do so again.
  • The Oct. 6 trial of Jonathan Santillan could be delayed because of a motion regarding his mental health, authorities said. Santillan and Isrrael Vasquez are charged in the Jan. 5, 2013, shooting deaths of Samual Flores Mendoza and his wife, Maria Saravia Mendoza, in their Garner home. Santillan was 15 at the time but is being tried as an adult.
  • The mental state of John Wesley Winters Jr., 71, also could affect the scheduling of his trial and whether prosecutors seek the death penalty against him, authorities said. Winters is charged with fatally stabbing his sister, Seanne Winters Barnette, 55, in her Knightdale apartment last October.
  • Roger Onaje McKenzie, 27, remains in a mental hospital and isn't competent to stand trial for the Aug. 9, 2010, death of James Edward Hamer, 29, who was shot in a downtown Raleigh barbershop.
  • A Jan. 19 trial date was set for Joanna Roberta Madonna, a former Wake County school teacher, who is charged with stabbing her husband, 64-year-old Jose Manuel Perez, to death in June 2013.
  • Prosecutors are awaiting medical records before setting a trial date for Britis Andruce Previlon, 33, who is charged with beating 64-year-old Curtis Ray Woodard to death with a glass bottle last October during a robbery near downtown Raleigh. They said they don't plan to seek the death penalty in the case.
  • Winston Lewis, 36, has rejected a plea deal and will go to trial on Dec. 1. He is charged with killing Latasha Renee Pierce, 36, at her Garner home in April 2013. Prosecutors said the two argued, and a gun went off as they struggled over it.
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  • dollibug Aug 15, 2014

    Brad Cooper was transferred the end of January 2014 when the judge said they would meet back in 60 days to continue. I guess this was the *meeting* which should have taken place at the end of March finally held on 8/14/2014. Interesting that it took this long for someone to *review* the case and decide what to do next. NO COURT DATE set yet. Perhaps it is hard for the state to decide when to allow the trial to start since trying to get a conviction from nothing is going to be quite EXPENSIVE AND DIFFICULT to do.