Raleigh, N.C. — A man serving on North Carolina's death row for his role in the shooting deaths of two Food Lion employees nearly 19 years ago was resentenced to life in prison Monday after prosecutors said they will no longer pursue the case to get his execution carried out.
Elmer Ray McNeill Jr., 42, was convicted in 1996 of first-degree murder in the deaths of Michael Truelove, 20, and John Ray, 27, who were closing the north Raleigh grocery store when they were each shot in the back of the head during a robbery on the night of Sept. 19, 1993.
McNeill was sentenced to death but a federal court, in 2009, reversed the sentence, finding that his defense was constitutionally inadequate because it failed to uncover and present evidence at trial that McNeill suffered from depression and physical and childhood sexual abuse.
The state initially announced it wanted a new sentencing hearing, but Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby recently said he would be satisfied with a life sentence, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents McNeill.
"Given the circumstances of this case, life is certainly the appropriate sentence," said Jonathan Broun of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, who also represented McNeill. "We applaud the district attorney for recognizing that truth and for upholding justice."
McNeill was one of two men convicted in the case.
His older brother, Robert Anthony McNeill, 44, was sentenced to life in prison for the crimes after a jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether he should have been put to death for the crimes.
Prosecutors argued that Elmer McNeill shot Truelove and that Robert McNeill, who worked at the store, at the intersection of Six Forks and Strickland roads, plotted the killings and robbery.