Man charged with killing Granville couple wants death penalty off table
Posted December 6, 2016
Oxford, N.C. — Lawyers for a Texas man charged with killing a Granville County couple almost two years ago asked a judge Tuesday to block an attempt by prosecutors to seek the death penalty in the case.
Eric Campbell, 23, is charged with two counts of 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 New Year's Day 2015 deaths of Jerome Faulkner, 73, and his wife, Dora Faulkner, 62.
Authorities say Campbell and his father, Edward Watson Campbell, both of Alvin, Texas, stormed into the Faulkners' home, just north of Oxford, 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 later that day following a shootout, and investigators found the Faulkners' bodies under a mattress in the back of the pickup.
Edward Campbell killed himself last year at Raleigh’s Central Prison, where he was being held.
Defense attorney Will Durham argued Tuesday that Edward Campbell carried out the crime spree and his son was an unwilling participant.
"There is no affirmative evidence that Eric Campbell actually committed any of the acts resulting in death or that he wanted them to occur," Durham told Superior Court Judge Henry Hight.
Edward Campbell was an abusive, manipulative father who "used force and threats to get what he wanted," and Eric Campbell couldn't stand up to him, Durham said.
"Whether that failing makes him culpable of the crimes in this case ... is what will be the subject of this trial," the attorney said.
The father had jumped bail in a Texas domestic violence case and had taken his son on a cross-country "camping trip," Durham said. When they were running low on money, he said, Edward Campbell decided to rob the Faulkners.
Eric Campbell was outside the house, thinking it was a simple robbery, Durham said. But he heard screaming from inside, and by the time he went in the house on his father's orders to search for financial documents, the Faulkners lay gravely wounded on the floor, Durham said.
"Eric was very scared of his father, and he should have been. His father was scary," he said, adding that the son's mere participation doesn't warrant the possibility of a death sentence.
Granville County Assistant District Attorney Allison Capps countered that Eric Campbell "might not have been the main participant ... (but) he also participated" in killing the Faulkners.
"Three instruments used as weapons in the case required more than one person," Capps told Hight without elaboration.
Search warrants in the case state that a blood-stained crossbow with two of its four blades missing was found in the home.
"The evidence suggests that the Faulkners were tortured," Campbell said. "There were certainly moments or even prolonged periods of time for premeditation and deliberation."
Hight said he would hold off on deciding whether the case should proceed as a capital case or a simple murder trial without the prospect of the death penalty. The judge did deny a defense motion to move the trial out of Granville County.