'He's a kind person:' Emotional family of NC man charged with capital murder speaks to his innocence
In a press conference on Monday, activists and family members voiced their support and concern for Lester Kearney, a Warren County man who has spent the last four years in prison, while reiterating his innocence.Posted — Updated
Kearney faces capital murder charges in the March 9, 2018, death of Nancy Alford, whose husband, Rev. John Alford, says Kearney broke into their Lake Gaston home.
Alford claims he was beaten and tied up while his wife was driven to Roanoke Rapids and forced to cash a check at a credit union. He said he later found a fast-moving fire in their house and heard his wife screaming, but he couldn't reach her because of the flames and smoke.
Firefighters found Nancy Alford's body in the rubble of the burned-out house.
On Monday, Kearney's mom said her son has spent the last four years in solitary confinement at Central Prison. She recently lost her other son, a father of three, to COVID-19, and said Lester's imprisonment and separation from his family is just as painful, she said.
Multiple family members, including Kearney's mom, aunt and uncle, attended the virtual press conference on Monday.
James Kearney, a former sheriff's sergeant and Lester Kearney's uncle, voiced his compassion for the victims but said Black men like Lester have struggled for years.
"I've been pulled over for no reason," he said. "North Carolina has to come out of their old ways ... [it's] very racist. I am sorry I have to say it like that, but that's how it is."
Doris Lashley, Lester Kearney's mom, said she has spoken to her son every day since December, when he was moved to the Franklin County Jail for conferences with his lawyers.
"He is not thinking that this is going to go his way," she said, explaining that her son worries his previous brushes with the law will negatively affect that outcome of his trial.
Lashley said Lester, who is in his 30s, had "changed his path in life" prior to his arrest. She said his 7-year-old son and his nephews, who just lost their own father, need him.
"Lester being locked away has caused so much devastation," she said. "Lester clearly did not do this. Lester is innocent ... and Lester is a kind person. He would never commit such a heinous crime."
Attorney Dawn Blagrove, head of Emancipate NC, concluded the session by asking for a fair trial.
"We want equity. We want fairness. We want objectivity," she said. "We do not want to rush to judgment for Lester and we do not do not in any way want to interject ourselves or our thoughts into the trial in a way that is unfair or that is biased. We simply want to be a voice for Lester who, right now, has become voiceless because of an unfair system."
Jury selection begins Wednesday. Capital murder is murder that may be punished by death.
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