Local News

Teens Charged with Spring Lake Murders

Posted October 25, 1997

— Two Cumberland County teens are behind bars, charged in a shooting that left three people dead and one man hospitalized.

It happened in a mobile home just outside Spring Lake. Deputies say 18-year-old Antonio Smith and 17-year-old Johnny McKnight shot the four victims early Saturday morning.

A 22-year-old woman and two teen-aged boys were found shot to death. The father of one of the teen-agers, James Williams, 46, also was shot and was in critical but stable condition at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, authorities said.

Investigators identified the dead as Williams' son, 17-year-old Rodney C. Perry, and two Chatham County residents, Joseph Devane Petty, 19, and Renetta Andrea Brooks, who was Williams' niece.

Cumberland County Sheriff Moose Butler said James Williams managed to get out of the trailer after the gunmen fled, and asked a neighbor for help. He had multiple gunshot wounds to his upper body and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

Two undercover narcotics agents from the Spring Lake Police Department were working an unrelated case a couple of blocks away when they heard the shots. Butler said they were moving toward the site of the shooting when they saw Smith.

"He practically ran into their arms," Butler said.

Butler said the narcotics officers found Smith was carrying a .357-caliber pistol and a large amount of money. The officers took Smith to the trailer where deputies had already arrived.

A police dog followed a track from Williams' trailer to the home of McKnight's grandmother, about 100 yards from the shootings. McKnight was in the home, and deputies arrested him about 5:30 a.m.

A warrant filed with a magistrate said McKnight shot the three with a 9mm pistol. Smith is charged with shooting the three victims with a .357 Magnum revolver.

The three killings are the worst single-incident shooting in the county since Aug. 6. 1993 when Kenneth French Jr. stormed into Luigi's restaurant on McPherson Church Road and killed four people.

McKnight and Smith are both charged with three counts of first degree murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon.

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