Local News

Father, son accused of killing Granville couple in cross-country crime spree

Posted January 2, 2015 6:16 a.m. EST
Updated January 2, 2015 6:55 p.m. EST

— Investigators say a father and son went on a cross-country crime spree this week, driving a stolen SUV from Texas to North Carolina, where they killed a husband and wife in Granville County, set the couple's home on fire and stole their truck before shooting two police officers in West Virginia.

Law enforcement in all three states are cooperating in the investigation, which ended with the suspects' arrests Thursday evening after a shootout with West Virginia police.

Police identified the men as Edward Watson Campbell, 54, and his son, Eric Alexander Campbell, 21, both of Alvin, Texas.

Granville County sheriff's officials said they realized something was wrong Thursday after responding to a fire at the home of Jerome Faulkner, 73, and his wife, Dora, 62, at 8067 N.C. Highway 96, north of Oxford near the Oak Hill community.

"When we first got the call, we thought it was just a structure fire," Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins Jr. said.

The Faulkners were nowhere to be found – a man who called 911 to report the fire said he pounded on the door to the house to see if anyone was inside. Wilkins said he initially thought the couple had gone to a motel to get warm after a power outage earlier in the day.

"As things progressed, we found some things here that didn't look right," he said.

Wilkins said he believes the father and son burst into the couple's Granville County home around 7 a.m. Thursday, set the house on fire, killed the couple, loaded the bodies into a red Chevrolet Silverado pickup the couple owned, stole the truck and drove nearly four hours to West Virginia.

On Thursday afternoon, a state system in West Virginia that scans license plates noted the tag on a Chevrolet Suburban heading west on Interstate 64 had been reported stolen. West Virginia police said the SUV had been stolen in Texas, but there was no information Friday on where the plate came from.

Two Lewisburg, W.Va., police officers pulled over the Suburban, and while they were speaking with Eric Campbell, who was driving the SUV, Edward Campbell pulled the Silverado off the highway nearby, Lewisburg Police Chief Tim Stover said.

As Edward Campbell approached the officers, he opened fire on them with a .38-caliber revolver, Stover said. One officer was shot in the chest and neck, and the second officer was shot in the back, with a second bullet grazing his head, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

The officers' returned fire, and one of them shot Edward Campbell in the leg, Stover said.

Eric Campbell then jumped into the Silverado and drove off, wrecking the pickup in a nearby ravine, Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill said.

Sgt. Drew Pendleton of the West Virginia State Police said the Silverado went over an embankment and slammed into a couple of trees – "It took us a couple of hours to get the vehicle out," he said – before fleeing on foot. He was apprehended a short time later.

Investigators later found the Faulkners' bodies under a mattress in the back of the Silverado.

'Face of evil'

"These two individuals represent the face of evil and had no regard for human life," Stover said, noting that the Campbells appeared to be traveling from place to place committing crimes and that there there was no apparent reason for their actions.

Both officers were out of the hospital by Friday evening, and Stover credited the bulletproof vests the officers were wearing for minimizing their injuries.

Eric Campbell has been charged with two counts each of attempted first-degree murder and malicious assault on a government officer. His father will be charged with the same offenses when he is released from a Charleston, W.Va., hospital, authorities said.

Edward Campbell jumped bail on Dec. 18 in an aggravated assault case in Texas, said Brazoria County Criminal District Attorney Jeri Yenne. He allegedly attacked his wife with a firearm in September, she said, adding that she had pushed in court for a higher bond because of the violent nature of the case.

"It is so troubling to see someone make the full amount on a high bond with this dangerous of an accusation and then commit another crime," Yenne said. "No one got a bond reduction, no one dropped the ball and this still happened.”

Other charges from North Carolina, Texas and other jurisdictions are pending against the Campbells.

Wilkins said he and two deputies were headed to West Virginia Friday to aid in the investigation and to interview the Campbells. He said the son has spoken to investigators in West Virginia but the father has not.

"We believe that, if West Virginia police would not have stopped this, this crime spree would have carried on," Wilkins said. "It's something you see in the movies. It's unreal."

Deaths a loss for Granville community

Wilkins said he knew the Faulkners and described them as wonderful people who were well-known in the community. He believes they were randomly targeted and that the motive was robbery.

Jerome Faulkner was a retired fire chief with the Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department in Oxford. Dora Faulkner was a registered nurse who most recently worked at Central Regional Hospital in Butner.

"There's no way to really measure how much they meant to people," said Rev. Johnny Richards, pastor of Mountain Creek Baptist Church in Oxford, where the couple attended for years. "They just touched so many lives."

A community service for the couple was held Friday night at the church.

Pat Watts, whom Jerome Faulkner recruited as a medic for his fire department 17 years ago, said the senseless crime angers her.

"I just want to know why," Watts said. "Why Granville County? Why from Texas here? Why out here in this country? Why not 3 miles up the road? Why their house?"

The Faulkners were like family to her, often going on fire calls together.

"They were just two very good, loving, giving people who always gave and didn't ask for anything in return," she said.

Friend Ann Fiscus stopped by the Faulkners' burned home Friday and found the family's charred Bible in the rubble.

"Since this has happened, I'm glad they went together," Fiscus said. "That's one relief we have."

One of the couple's two sons is a Raleigh firefighter. Both sons were at their parents' house Thursday night, talking to investigators.

"Everyone in the community thought a lot of (the Faulkners)," Wilkins said. "The community at this point is in shock. This kind of thing does not happen here."

Aiman Botros, who owns a shop down the road, agreed that random crime is practically unheard of in the community.

"It's countryside, friendly. It's like a big family," Botros said.