Local News

Couple Dies in Whitakers Tragedy as Child Watches

Posted October 29, 1998

— A woman, the apparent victim of domestic violence, died Friday night, and her boyfriend and suspected tormentor is also dead.

Police protection was not enough in the Edgecombe County tragedy, and now the life of the couple's young child is changed forever because she watched the horrible events unfold in front of her eyes.

Police say the unmarried couple had an argument during the day. The woman left the house and returned with a police officer to help her retrieve her belongings. But when they got there, her boyfriend greeted them with the couple's young daughter in one arm and a shotgun in the other.

"The officer asked the victim to get behind the car," Whitakers Police Chief Craig Clapp said. "The victim then decided to come from behind the car, and that is when the suspect shot the victim."

After that, police say the victim's boyfriend threatened the officer and chased him around the car, then finally turned the gun on himself. His body was found partially in the officer's car, which left his mother in shock.

"What I can't understand is if he killed himself, how in the world was he kneeling in the door of a policeman's car," the suspect's mother Mary Braswell said. "How do you blow your own brains out like that? I don't understand."

Police have not released the names of the victims, but the Associated Press identifies the couple as Wanda Johnson and Russell Dickens.

Officials do say that there were no prior reports of domestic violence. Photographer: Chad Flowers


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