Local News

Wilson Jury Sentences Nicholson to Death

Posted November 16, 1999

— Jurors have sentenced Abner Nicholson to death for killing his wife, Gloria, and Sharpsburg Police Chief Wayne Hathaway in July 1997.

The judge gave the case to the jury late Wednesday afternoon, and the panel returned just after 12 p.m. Thursday with its sentence.

The jury said there were mitigating factors in this case, but they felt the aggravating circumstances outweighed those factors.

After five hours of deliberations, the jury chose two death sentences.

"The hardest part about it is I lost my child. This is a day that shouldn't have been, but we're here," said Ella Badger, Gloria's mother.

Nicholson showed little emotion as each juror confirmed the choice.

His attorney says he is not sure if the convicted killer understands his fate.

"He is a 34-year-old chronological man who is able to adapt to some things, but he has the mind of a 12 or 13 year old," said attorney Toby Fitch.

Hathaway's friend and current police chief, William Purnell, said the death penalty is the only way to wrap up the painful chapter in Sharpsburg.

Nicholson's photo will stay up on the police department's wall until he is put to death.

"I think it would send a message out to anyone that the judicial system and the residents of North Carolina are not going to tolerate this," said Purnell.

The defense hoped to spare Nicholson's life by arguing that his low intelligence level meant the jury would essentially be putting a child on death row.

"We've talked about the age, and I think the fact that he has the mental age of a 13-year-old should be taken into consideration," said defense attorney Terry Alford.

Prosecutors portrayed Nicholson as a cold-blooded killer who should suffer the same way his victims did.

"This man needs to go to jail. He needs to go to prison. He needs to go to death row. That's where he needs to go," said prosecutor John Covolo. andJulie Moos

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