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Jurors deliberate in slaying of Durham church deacon

Posted February 8, 2011

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— Jurors deliberated for about four hours Tuesday in the murder trial of a Durham man accused of fatally stabbing a church deacon more than three years ago.

Tori Neal, 21, is charged with first-degree murder, larceny of a motor vehicle, breaking and entering and larceny in the Sept. 26, 2007, slaying of Charles Forest Davis. Deliberations are expected to continue Wednesday morning.

Davis, 89, was stabbed 47 times and left to die in his home on Nellowood Street in Durham's Braggtown neighborhood, authorities said. Investigators said the home had been ransacked and Davis' car had been stolen.

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors painted the contrast between the lives led by Davis and Neal, who also went by the name Tory Nelson.

Assistant Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols said the men lived "two opposite ways of life," and fellow Assistant District Attorney Theresa Pressley noted that Davis was a deacon at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, where he was a member for more than 50 years, and had been married to his wife for more than 60 years.

Neal bragged to a friend about the killing to gain gang credibility, Pressley said. He also was seen driving Davis' car the night of the crime, she told jurors.

A day after Davis' body was found, a deputy spotted his car and gave chase, but the people inside jumped out, ran and escaped.

Prosecutors also said a shoe print found at the crime scene links Neal to the death, and they pointed out that Neal had blisters and other wounds on his hands.

Tori Neal in court, aka Tory Nelson Jurors deliberate in slaying of Durham church deacon

"When you stab a knife 47 times into a defenseless victim and you hit bone, you get friction between your thumb and your palm," Pressley said.

Defense attorneys argued that the state didn't collect enough evidence or do enough testing to ensure that the shoe print was an exact match to Neal's shoe.

"The state's burden is to get over the 'I don't know,'" defense attorney Rebecca Wiggins said. "The state's burden is beyond a reasonable doubt. That's what the state burden is, but you are left with a lot of 'I don't knows.'"

Wiggins also questioned the credibility of prosecution witnesses whose testimonies conflicted.

Stefon Rashad Hinton, 19, pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen vehicle in the case and is expected to be sentenced Thursday.

Hinton, who had been charged with murder, was prepared to testify against Neal, but prosecutors never called him as a witness, said his attorney, Karen Bethea-Shields.

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