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Man withdraws guilty plea to killing 28-year-old with SUV

Posted May 20, 2011

— Stanton Mark Moretti Jr. was due to be sentenced Friday after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder Tuesday in the 2008 death of Aaron Lazarus McLeod, 28.

Instead, Moretti, 45, of Raeford, left the courtroom, saying one word to reporters: "Freedom."

Moretti came to court Friday with a new lawyer, D.W. Bray, who replaced two public defenders, and asked to withdraw his guilty plea.

Prosecutors, who believe that Moretti committed first-degree murder by running over McLeod three times after an attempted robbery, fought the withdrawal. They called it "a ruse to continue the case and manipulate the system."

The judge, however, allowed Moretti to withdraw the plea and proceed with a trial on the original charge. Jury selection is set to begin Monday.

"He believes he's innocent, and I believe it's also a reflection of his confidence with what I can present to the jury," said Bray, who is being paid by Moretti.

Bray said his client regretted making a guilty plea while facing the specter of a murder trial. Moretti was also taking anti-anxiety medicine that clouded his judgment, the lawyer said.

"Sometimes people make mistakes under pressure," Bray said.

Relatives of McLeod said the plea withdrawal was just a tactic to draw out the case.

"It seems like to me he just wants to buy more time," said McLeod's aunt, Barbara McLeod.

She said it also creates "absolutely more stress" for the family, including McLeod's father.

"His health has been very bad, and they need to get closure from this. It's been three years," Barbara McLeod said.

Man wants trial, not plea in 2008 SUV death Man wants trial, not plea in 2008 SUV death

Moretti told police that he chased a man who tried to rob his wife at knifepoint outside a pizzeria on Yadkin Road in Fayetteville on Feb. 23, 2008.

Anna Moretti yelled for her husband, who said he responded by firing two warning shots, then chasing the alleged attacker in his GMC Yukon. Moretti hit McLeod three times as he ran down Horseshoe Road.

In a pre-trial interview, Moretti said he heard loud noises that he thought were gunshots and ducked, hitting McLeod.


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  • Nope May 23, 2011

    If the jury actually follows the law, he will be guilty, but not of ist degree. My guess is that there is a good chance that he can get off though, after seeing some of the ignorant comments here. That is the problem with jury trials - people make decisions according to emotion, or personal opinion - not by applying the law to the evidence.

  • VoiceMatters May 23, 2011

    There was probably no knife involved here. The guy that was ran over 3 times was probably hitting on Morretti's wife and he flipped out.

    To me Morretti appears to possess high blood pressure along with an attitude, and ignorance. All this was/is a crime of acting without thinking first...and over-reacting, of course.

  • outside_chance May 20, 2011

    GWALLY: "Had the "equus asinus" that robbed and injured his wife been home....he would be alive today..!!!"

    True, and you reap what you sow and I am by no means defending Mcleod.

    But it still doesn't change the fact that what Moretti did was against the law and it is pretty obvious his intent was to kill Mcleod even after the danger to him/his wife had passed and even after Mcleod was immobile.

    How can you reasonably defend that?

  • rescuefan May 20, 2011

    "Remember the people on the jury are the ones not smart enough to get out of it. Reads like you just published your out!

    Actually, the people who serve on a jury are proud to be citizens of the US and are glad to do their civic duty. Seems that you don't feel that way. What a shame that someone would actually feel that way.

    This guy acted out of rage. The danger was over and he still continued with deadly force and ran the other guy over 3 times. It doesn't matter what the guy was doing prior to that, once the imminent danger was over, he lost his right to use deadly force.

  • Bartmeister May 20, 2011

    I originally thought he could at least get a reduced charge to manslaughter, if not be found not guilty. I guess we'll see. I do know one thing, there is way more to this story than what's being reported here on WRAL. Advice from 2 public defenders is plea to 2nd degree? This ought to be very very interesting.

  • pamelaworley1969 May 20, 2011

    was he taking anti anxiety pills while driving? if so hes just as guilty as a drunk driver. also if he did kill the man on purpose and it goes to trial costing tax payers money i hope he gets life without parole.

  • RM24 May 20, 2011

    Anyone care to guess what would have happened if he had not tried to rob someone??? Sometimes when you attept to mug/rob/attack people bad things happen to you.

  • RM24 May 20, 2011

    So an armed robber was killed? Moments after he tried to rob someone at knife point? Bad decision to rob someone I can see.

  • buffalobill-back-in-the-saddle May 20, 2011

    "I have jury duty as well, and I hope this is the case, because I will find him guilty. I will find him guilty before the trial ever starts."

    that comment is the most frightening thing i have heard in a while.

    guilty because what i have seen on wral & read in the papers!

    frightening indeed.

  • timmy67 May 20, 2011

    I know his lawyer D.W.Bray. He is a crooked lawyer, and a racist lawyer. He is corrupt. He doesn,t even care if his client goes to prison or not. He is being sued for slandering people.