Local News

Suspect in Wilson Murder Case Speaks Out

Posted November 12, 2007

— James Johnson says he's trying to adjust to life outside jail the best he can.

Three years ago, at the age of 18, he was arrested and charged in connection with the death of Brittany Willis, a 17-year-old high-school soccer player found dead in a field near the Brentwood Shopping Center in Wilson.

In September, Johnson's $1 million bond was reduced to $60,000, and the Wilson County District Attorney's Office handed the case over to a special prosecutor. The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP led a high-profile campaign to dismiss the case based on claims of discrimination and a lack of evidence.

"It was a wonderful feeling. I was going that day thinking it was a trial," Johnson said. "But at the same time, (it was) bittersweet, because I still have to deal with it months down the road."

Now 21, Johnson says he now spends his days at his parents' home in Wilson, visiting with family and friends. He says he wants to pick up where he left off – he's trying to get into college and get back to playing soccer, a sport that won him a scholarship to Louisburg College before he was arrested.

He still faces first-degree kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder charges for crimes, he says, he was shocked to be charged with and maintains he did not commit.

"I was definitely surprised. That's why I evaluate the whole situation and just – I've got to put it in God's hand," Johnson said. "Because I look at it from that standpoint, because God knows I didn't do it, and I know He's behind me."

Last year, Kenneth Meeks, a second man arrested in the case, pleaded guilty to killing Willis, and in a letter to The Wilson Daily Times, said he acted alone. He wrote that all the evidence proved Johnson is innocent.

"I don't know if that took a spiritual thing or a conscious thing, but at least he's not lying anymore, and I know if I can forgive him, I can forgive anyone," Johnson said.

Records show no DNA evidence from Johnson at the crime scene, and Johnson passed a polygraph test in which he denied involvement in the crime.

Johnson did admit to helping Meeks clean fingerprints off Willis' vehicle but said he was under duress. He went to police three days later and reported the crime.

Willis' family, however, has said it believes evidence still warrants a trial.

Whether that happens depends on Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster, who is evaluating the case to decide if there is evidence to proceed with a trial.

Johnson won't say he isn't worried about the prospect of being convicted – "I'm not ignorant to that fact," he said, referencing the high-profile case of Darryl Hunt, a Winston-Salem man who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1984 and cleared by DNA evidence nearly 20 years later.

But he attributes his strengthened faith to being able to cope with that possibility.

"I went through a spiritual journey," he said. "I don't want to just seem like I'm running to God when I'm in trouble, because I was dealing with God before this. It just made it stronger and deeper."

"I try not to deal with worry, but of course, it creeps in your head every now and then," he added. "I've been thinking about it for three years. And I try not to let the stress from it overtake me."

Johnson cannot talk about the specifics of the case but says he never thought Meeks was capable of murder. He says he not only prays for Willis' family, but also Meeks'.

"Every family dealing with this situation – (it) is definitely a tragedy. If it was somebody in my family, I wouldn't know how to react," he said. "No one deserves nothing like that."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Run_Forrest_Run Nov 13, 2007

    firstgenchevy, I owe you an apology. It seems I misread your statement and left out the 'AND HAD A GUN'. Yeah - I can see where you might have helped - until you could get away and tell the cops (not 3 days later mind you).... Again, my apologies.

  • Run_Forrest_Run Nov 13, 2007


    You would have helped your friend hide the fact he murdered someone????

    I have typed and deleted my response to this so many times. I can not fathom the lack of character you just admitted to.

  • Run_Forrest_Run Nov 13, 2007


    If the special prosecutor feels he is to be tried for Murder, he will be. If not, he will probably still be tried for Accessory after the fact. I do not think very highly of this young man. I leave his fate up to the courts - but do not think he should just be let go for time served. He has to be tried for his crime(s) and then a Judge determine his sentence and if time served is sufficient. Some of the people on this forum are not assuming his guilt - he has stated he is guilty of Accessory after the fact.....time will tell if he was a further participant. We just have to wait to see.

  • Run_Forrest_Run Nov 13, 2007

    Mslady said: No one on this site has the right to judge ANYONE..the BIBLE is the final court of appeal..and it says NOT TO JUDGE!!! If he's guilty of anything, it should be "ACCESSORY" after the fact & he should be set free for time ALREADY served.....
    I am not judging him. I am telling you what the law of this land says. Yes he is PRESUMED Innocent until PROVEN Guilty. He has ADMITTED to accessory after the fact - which is a criminal FELONY act punishable by more than 2 years of prison. I am not responsible for the fact that his case has not been tried. Do you know why it has been delayed? Was it by the prosecution or the defense?? Either way - it is not up to you or anyone else but a judge to determine if the time he spent in prison already is fair punishment should he LEGALLY be found guilty (which again - he already admitted to).

  • just my2cents Nov 13, 2007

    Miss Lisa, when he is wiping the fingerprints off of your loved ones car after his friend murdered them, let me know. Then we will see if it's a big deal to you then.
    Come to Wilson, you will see, hear and live the FACTS of this case daily. You will not need the media to tell you anything.

  • wp Nov 13, 2007

    He is definately guilty of things he's admitted, such wiping fingerprints off the car, which in turn is trying to help cover up a crime. He's an accessory. He should be punished at the maximum level for that.

  • eksodystech1 Nov 13, 2007

    Wheres the other guy that was charged. Not meeks, the other one that for some reason has disappeared. People seem to forget there were three people charged for this crime. While this guy sents in jail 3yrs, there is a co-defendant just running around free. He's guilty and his word is his conviction. Just not of rape and murder. Accessory after the fact fits with all he has said. No matter how you feel about the NAACP you should understand why they stepped in. 3yrs waiting for trail on $1,000,000 bond. There have been people who have committed multiple murders and had less bail than that.

  • skypilot-not Nov 13, 2007

    No pity for him

  • DayumKrazy1 Nov 13, 2007

    wasn't there and only know what the media has said, just like those who have already sentenced the man here in this thread. I know the girls parents want closure, don't we all but, remember thats what a trial is for.

  • Mslady Nov 13, 2007

    No one on this site has the right to judge ANYONE..the BIBLE is the final court of appeal..and it says NOT TO JUDGE!!! If he's guilty of anything, it should be "ACCESSORY" after the fact & he should be set free for time ALREADY served.....