Victim might have been trying to help Johnston County murder suspect
Posted December 17, 2013
Benson, N.C. — A Four Oaks man found along a Benson highway late Monday morning might have been trying to help the man authorities have charged in his death, Johnston County's sheriff said Tuesday.
Sheriff Steve Bizzell said Anthony Edward Messer, 31, was an acquaintance of the son of Billy Watson Strickland, 62, who was found shot and robbed on the side of Hannah Creek Road.
Messer, 31, of 2095 Stewart Road in Four Oaks, was arrested Monday afternoon and faces charges of murder and robbery in the case.
Those who knew Strickland said he was well-known and well-liked in the community and that he sold used cars at Strickland's Auto Sales in front of his home on U.S. Highway 701.
"He would help you in any way he could. He was a good, humble person," said Valton Coats, who knew Strickland for nearly 50 years. "He was a well-thought-of person. This community is going to miss him dearly."
Authorities haven't commented on a motive for the crime, but friends of Strickland said Messer had spent the night at his home prior to his death.
His body was found about 10 miles from his home.
Court records show Messer has been convicted on several charges, dating to 2001, including robbery and breaking and entering.
He was convicted in October of larceny and received a suspended jail sentence and 18 months' probation.