Raleigh, N.C. — A ninth-grader appeared every bit as young as his 16 years when he made his first court appearance Friday to face charges that he shot and killed a church deacon who was checking his mail outside his apartment.
The youth of the accused killer has raised questions about what led to the Oct. 23 slaying of Richard Gus Brown, 74, outside his Wallingford Drive apartment.
Latrell Latham, of 4908 N. New Hope Road, attended ninth grade at Millbrook High School, but only briefly. Wake County Public School System records show that he left school Nov. 7.
Millbrook Principal Dana King said Latham moved to Wake County from Virginia and enrolled in October. He dropped out of school within five weeks.
Investigators into Brown's death later found Latham in the Wake County Jail. Latham had been arrested for an unrelated strong armed robbery charge committed on Nov. 13, less than a week after he left school.
Many Millbrook students could not recall Latham. Those who could said he was quiet.
"He didn't have a bad feeling around him or nothing like that," Millbrook senior Chris Williams said.
Neighbors agreed that Latham did not seem like the type of teenager who would get into so much trouble.
"I was like, 'Murder? I don't believe that,'" one neighbor said.
Latham lived less than a quarter-mile from the spot where police allege he killed Brown, officers said.
Brown's widow, Evelyn Brown, said she was glad someone was behind bars for killing her husband.
Latham's family members said they were still in shock over the teen's arrest. He was being held at the Wake County Jail without bond on Friday evening.
Although Latham faces one charge of first-degree murder, police said the case of Brown's death was still not closed. They have not released what information led them to charge Latham or what motive they suspect.
"There's more investigation under way, and we're continuing to solicit information in this case," Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said.