Texas man denies killing Granville couple, says father committed crime
Posted July 20
Updated July 21
Oxford, N.C. — A Texas man denied Thursday taking part in the brutal killings of a Granville County couple almost three years ago, saying his father, who is now dead, committed the crime.
Eric Alexander Campbell, 24, of Alvin, Texas, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, second-degree arson, robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a motor vehicle, financial card theft, identity theft and two counts of cruelty to animals in the Dec. 31, 2014, deaths of Jerome Faulkner, 73, and his wife, Dora Faulkner, 62.
Campbell is expected to be on the witness stand again Friday. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Authorities say Campbell and his father, Edward Watson Campbell, stormed into the Faulkners' home in northern Granville County, robbed them, set fire to the house and killed them before fleeing in both the couple's Chevrolet Silverado and a stolen SUV. Medical examiners testified Wednesday that the Faulkners were beaten, stabbed and shot with bolts, or arrows from a crossbow.
Edward Campbell jumped bail in Texas, where he had been charged with assaulting his wife, and his son said he went on the lam with his father in December 2014 to try to keep him out of trouble.
"One of my main reasons for going with him was to keep these things from happening," Eric Campbell testified, saying that his father suggested robbing a gas station during their road trip.
The pair decided to camp at an abandoned house in northern Granville County, but Eric Campbell said his father spotted Jerome Faulkner outside his home nearby and decided to rob him and steal his pickup.
Eric Campbell said he was outside the house when his father attacked the Faulkners. He said he heard screaming inside the house and a gunshot.
"I didn't know what to do, whether to run," he said in a soft voice.
His father then dragged him inside the house, where he saw Jerome Faulkner on the floor with an arrow in his chest. Dora Faulkner was on a bed nearby moaning in pain, he said, so his father shot her with the crossbow as well.
"Did you try to fight with your father?" defense attorney William Durham asked.
"No, I didn't," Eric Campbell replied. "It happened very fast."
He said he also feared his father might kill him as well if he tried to intervene.
"I didn't want to be there while my dad was doing these things, but I didn't have a choice," he said.
Father was abusive for years
Defense attorneys have repeatedly argued that Eric Campbell was under the control of his father and was an unwilling participant in the crime spree.
Earlier Thursday, Campbell described for jurors a childhood filled with beatings and humiliation at the hands of a domineering father.
"Any kind of mistake a boy could make, you were hit," he testified. "Basically, when he was done, you were black from the bottom of your legs to your neck."
Edward Campbell's violent nature wasn't confined to his children, his son said, noting that his father also beat his stepmother, bludgeoned the family dog with a 2x4 and once knocked a man's teeth out with an iron pipe for cutting him off in traffic.
"He used physical force all of our lives," Eric Campbell said.
When Eric Campbell was a teen, he said, his father began cooking methamphetamine in a backyard shed for his own consumption. He would sometimes be forced to help, he said, and his father would give him meth to keep him going when he was exhausted from looking after his young half-sister and half-brothers.
Eric Campbell said he tried to escape by getting outside jobs and going to community college, but he was never successful. Instead, he just tried not to provoke his father's anger.
"I learned how to react to his moods to avoid being hit," he testified.
Prosecutor questions details in testimony
After the Faulkners were killed, Eric Campbell said, his father forced him to comb through their files to obtain financial records. The paid also loaded the dead bodies in the back of Jerome Faulkner's pickup. Campbell said his father wanted to make a mask out of Jerome Faulkner's face to steal his identity.
The following morning, Edward Campbell set the Faulkners' house on fire, and he and his son drove off. Police in Lewisburg, W.Va., arrested the Campbells a few hours later following a shootout, and investigators found the Faulkners' bodies under a mattress in the back of the pickup.
Granville County District Attorney Mike Waters pointed out inconsistencies between Eric Campbell's statements to law enforcement officers after his arrest and his testimony Thursday.
Campbell gave West Virginia police a first-person account of the Faulkners' slayings but said Thursday that he based that on what his father had told him, reiterating that he was outside the home when the Faulkners were attacked.
"I wasn't lying. I was trying to tell them everything I could," he testified.
Waters noted Eric Campbell had told police his father had hinted at needing to kill someone to get money, but Campbell said he thought his father wanted only to rob the Faulkners.
"He hinted on a lot of illegal stuff. I didn't know he was actually going to kill someone," he said.
Edward Campbell killed himself in March 2015 in Raleigh’s Central Prison, where he was being held.