Local News

Tommi Byrd Remembered as Suspect Appears in Court

Posted August 5, 1998

— He told family and friends he could elude law officers, just as bombing suspect Eric Rudolph continues to do, but that proved to be too much of a challenge for double murder suspect James Finley, Jr. Finley was caught at the Montgomery/Richmond county line after a two day search.

One of his alleged victims, Tommi Danielle Byrd, an Erwin native, was remembered Thursday afternoon.

"No sorrow can be more devastating than the shocking events of this past weekend when two outstanding young people, Tommi Byrd and Derrick Marston were so senselessly taken from this world by an act of consciousless violence," Reverend Jesse Mooney told mourners.

Hundreds of Byrd's family members, friends and high school classmates came to say one final goodbye:

"Although my heart aches beyond a realm of pain I never knew existed, what more could a mother ask for than someone who has touched so many lives and pulled together families and showed them how to love one another," said family friend Laura Pope as she read a poem written by Tommi's mother. "My Tommi, my very special angel, today I know you are looking down on all of us, and I can just hear you say `I love you, mother.'"

Family members say they are relieved the hunt for James Finley is over. Also relieved are the residents of Montgomery County where Finley tried to elude police.

"It had everyone on pins and needles. It sure did," said one Montgomery County resident.

Everyone wanted to see 21-year-old Finley in handcuffs. After an exhausting two day search, police brought him out of the woods. Law enforcement officers from more than a dozen agencies found the suspect near 400 acres of land he knew like the back of his hand.

"Very seldom do I cheer standing in front of a television, but I literally stood and cheered last night at the news report the person involved had been apprehended," admitted Pastor Currie Parker, "I'm sure this family would like to say thanks to every person, the police and those who were involved in that capture."

"This is where he told his family that if he got in trouble, he was coming to the hunting club," said Burke County Sheriff Richard Epley.

Finley had hunted on the property for years. Officers hid in the area. When they saw Finley, police fired one shot. Finley surrendered, to the relief of many.

"Several weapons were taken off of him," said one officer. "Plus he's wanted for homicide -- two counts. So, it was extremely important that we get him off the street."

In the streets of Erwin where murder victim Tommi Byrd grew up, news of an arrest was somewhat comforting.

"I think it's great they got him," said Shannon Surles, Erwin resident. "I know it's been really hard on the family and maybe it can put their minds to rest a little bit."

Late Wednesday night, Finley was taken back to Burke County where the two murders occurred. He made his first appearance there Thursday morning at 11:30. andJohn McDonnellandDoug BrickerandKerrie Hudzinski


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