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Vigil Held to Support Family of Slain Wilson Teen

Posted January 12, 2008

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— Family members, friends and others gathered Friday night on the steps of the Wilson County Courthouse for a candlelight vigil in honor of a slain teen.

Brittany Willis, 17, was kidnapped, raped and murdered in June 2004. Her body was found in a field near Brentwood Shopping Center, and investigators said robbery was a motive for the crime.

"We lost one of our true friends," Nick Mickell said at the rally. "She was a joy to be around, and it's like a hole in your heart."

Last month, prosecutors dropped a murder charge against a man that had been accused of participating in Willis' slaying.

James Johnson, who spent more than three years in jail awaiting trial, is now charged with accessory after the fact of murder. That charge is scheduled to go before a grand jury on Monday.

Another man, Kenneth Meeks, pleaded guilty to killing Willis and is serving a life sentence in prison. Meeks has said he acted alone and Johnson wasn't involved in the teen's death.

Johnson has maintained his innocence on all charges, saying Meeks picked him up in Willis' sport utility vehicle and took him to see her body.

He has also said that he was afraid for his own life after Meeks showed him a gun and drove him to a car wash. Under duress, Johnson said, he wiped his own fingerprints off the SUV.

He went to police three days later. Johnson's father said his son struggled with breaking what he called "the no-snitch rule of the streets."

The North Carolina conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has led a high-profile campaign to dismiss all charges against Johnson and has spoken publicly several times about the case, claiming racial discrimination and prosecutorial misconduct and saying Johnson should be viewed as a hero for helping authorities solve the crime.

Willis' family and friends have become more vocal in recent weeks, saying they are concerned over how the case has been handled.

"We need to have someone looking at this to make sure that everything has been properly done," family friend Nora Williford said at Friday's vigil.

Organizers passed out fliers with a list of local and state officials and asked supporters to contact the officials with their concerns about the case.

"Hopefully this will be resolved one way or another. I think tonight is a good showing, sends a good message. So, thank you all for coming out. God bless you," said Randy Willis, Brittany Willis' father.

"(The Willises) do have people behind them that care about them, and we just want to see justice done," supporter Susan Auman said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • nanny Jan 14, 2008

    Way to go "COPS EYE". I hope the world is full of people like you-just like you said it is not about color-JUSTICE IS JUSTICE
    no matter who you are. It is obvious he was involved-should
    get an accessory. LET'S JOIN NAAWP. It is way past time we
    have a voice.

  • NCMOMof3 Jan 14, 2008

    In the state of North Carolina, anyone that suspects child abuse and does not report it can be charged as an accessory if can be proven that this person suspected the abuse and didn't report it. How much more should someone that knew about a crime, admitted he knew about the crime, helped clean up the evidence of a crime, be held accountable?

  • PaulRevere Jan 13, 2008

    I can't get that Twisted Sister song out of my head. "We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore". :-)

  • beachboater Jan 12, 2008

    Well, I've heard a bit from a friend in Wilson and he agrees with Cops eye. Maybe the grand jury will reinstate the murder charges when they meet on Monday. I really hope they do. That way at least, Mr. Johnson will be tried in a courtroom and not in the court of public opinion.

    Oh, darn, the grand jury can't do that. I just remembered, Mr. Johnson is a hero. The Reverend Doctor William Barber said so.
    I wonder if the NAACP is really the National Association for the Advancement of Criminal People. Lately that seems to be a more fitting accronym.

    And BTW, I didn't pick up anything racist from Cops eye's remarks.

  • Halyard Jan 12, 2008

    BTW, if you see "J 4 B" bumper stickers, its in support of Brittany & justice for her! They were giving them out Friday night @ the vigil.

  • twc Jan 12, 2008

    It is so wonderful that so many are showing up to support the Willis family and justice for Brittany! Don't underestimate the importance of being there! Just being there is so very important for the family and for justice!! Please keep up your wonderful support!!

    JUSTICE FOR BRITTANY!!! Down with racism!!

  • PackGirl424 Jan 12, 2008

    there are other witenesses as well, not only the unfortunately dead woman. It's called a discovery folks .. go read up on it .. the evidence is there. The prosecution just isn't going to show its hand before the trial, they would actually like to try the case in a court of law and not in the media

  • Halyard Jan 12, 2008

    cjtheump, if someone from the naacp was there I did not see him/her but I really don't know.

  • ECUPirateFan Jan 12, 2008

    Just thinking, there was a witness, Charlene Gray Godvey, that stated she saw Willis talking with 2 black males near the shopping center, but she died 4 months later. I guess since she has died, we can ignore her statement and remember it anyway we like.

  • Halyard Jan 12, 2008

    COPs eye, I live in Wilson and I pretty much see this the same way you do and I happen to be good friends w/ the Willis'.

    Have a good evening.