Raleigh, N.C. — A Wake County jury on Thursday found a Raleigh man guilty of first-degree murder in the beating death of a Domino's assistant manager who was closing a Knightdale Domino's store when he was attacked in January 2010.
Jurors deliberated for about four hours Wednesday and Thursday before returning their verdict Thursday afternoon in the case against Travis Melton Sherman, a 23-year-old Raleigh man and one of two people charged in the Kenneth Ring's death.
Wake County prosecutors contended during closing arguments Wednesday that Sherman attacked Ring, 23, possibly with a baseball bat, on Jan. 9, 2010.
Ring died two days later as a result of blunt force injury.
Sherman, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, had no reaction to the sentence and sat motionless and expressionless as Ring's father, Dan Ring, addressed him in court in what's called a victim impact statement.
"This has been a long hard ride for my family, my friends and for everybody that's been involved in this case," Dan Ring said. "Travis, you made a terrible damn mistake, and you're the one that's going to live with that."
The state's case centered on Sherman's own admission to police that he was involved in the crime, as well as the testimony of two key witnesses.
Sherman did tell Knightdale police in September 2010 that he served as a lookout while another man robbed the store and that Kenneth Ring was complicit in the robbery and agreed to be hit in the head to make it appear real.
Dan Ring took issue with that claim Thursday.
"Don't point fingers at my boy," he said. "That was wrong to begin with. He was there to do a job, and you went and deprived him of his life."
Prosecutors, however, contended that Sherman, alone, attacked Ring and that no one else was in the pizza store that night.
Two witnesses – Timmy Crandall, an inmate at the Wake County jail, and Tracie Whitehouse, the mother of Nicho Bowers, the second man charged in Ring's death – testified that Sherman admitted to them he was responsible for the attack.
Crandall learned about details of the attack in a dozen jailhouse letters that Wake County Assistant District Attorney Doug Faucette called "highly incriminating."
But the defense, who called no witnesses during the 2½-week trial, argued that neither Whitehouse nor Sherman were credible witnesses, because both had incentive for cooperating in the investigation.
Crandall, who is still in jail, wants out, defense attorney Dan Dolan said, and Whitehouse testified because prosecutors promised not to charge her with accessory after the fact to murder for not going to police about the confession.
Dolan also argued that there was not enough evidence to find Sherman guilty and that police, dealing with the town's first homicide, were inept in their investigation.
The crime scene was contaminated. Neither Sherman's DNA nor fingerprints were recovered from it; and investigators never found a murder weapon and ignored a tire iron that the defense argued could have been a likely weapon in the attack.
But Dan Ring told the court he was proud of what everyone had done to bring justice for his son.
"He didn't get a jury trial. He was sentenced to death at that moment in time," Dan Ring told Sherman. "That's what you've got to live with. I hope you think about it every damn day, because we'll grow past it but you're going to live it forever."