Judge deals blow to defense in Granville murder trial
Posted July 11
Updated 9:47 a.m. Thursday
Oxford, N.C. — A judge on Tuesday dealt a serious blow to a Texas man's efforts to convince jurors he was an unwilling participant in the killings of a Granville County couple almost three years ago.
Eric Alexander Campbell, 24, of Alvin, Texas, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, second-degree arson, robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a motor vehicle, financial card theft, identity theft and two counts of cruelty to animals in the Dec. 31, 2014, deaths of Jerome Faulkner, 73, and his wife, Dora Faulkner, 62.
If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Authorities say Campbell and his father, Edward Watson Campbell, stormed into the Faulkners' home, robbed them, set fire to the house and killed them before fleeing in both the couple's Chevrolet Silverado and a stolen SUV.
Police in Lewisburg, W.Va., arrested the father and son on New Year's Day 2015 following a shootout, and investigators found the Faulkners' bodies under a mattress in the back of the pickup.
Edward Campbell told law enforcement officers in West Virginia that his son didn't play any role in the crime spree.
"He didn't kill anybody. He didn't shoot anybody," according to a transcript of his conversation with officers while on the way to a courthouse that was read in court Tuesday outside the presence of the jury.
"They were an old couple enjoying the last of their lives, and I took it from them," Edward Campbell told the officers, according to the transcript.
Edward Campbell killed himself in March 2015 in Raleigh’s Central Prison, where he was being held.
"This entire transcript is manipulation," Granville County Assistant District Attorney Allison Capps said. "Edward Campbell knew he wasn't going to be available, and he made these statements so that perhaps he could take the fall for Eric in this particular situation."
Defense attorneys argued that the statements Edward Campbell made are relevant to the charges and that jurors should be allowed to hear them.
Superior Court Judge Henry Hight said Edward Campbell's statements were hearsay and aren't admissible as evidence in the case, but he said he might reconsider that stance later.
Testimony from Edward Campbell's wife Tuesday afternoon seemed to bolster the defense's case that Eric Campbell was under the control of an abusive father during the cross-country crime spree.
Holly Smook, who had three children with Campbell and was Eric Campbell's stepmother, described her husband as violent and paranoid in late 2014. He was so sure she was having an affair that he beat her, tied her up, put a noose around her neck and threatened to shoot her, she testified.
Also Tuesday, a West Virginia state trooper described for jurors dozens of photos he took on Jan. 2, 2015, that showed personal belongings of the Faulkners, such as jewelry, a checkbook and a wallet, that were found in the woods near where the shootout occurred.
Eric Campbell is accused of burying those items in the woods after trying to flee from officers. Authorities also found a gun in the area.
Prosecution testimony is expected to continue Wednesday, and the trial could last into August.