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Raleigh Man Avoids Death Penalty With Plea Deal

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A Raleigh man avoided the death penalty Thursday when he admitted to setting his roommate's trailer on fire and killing her brother-in-law last year.

Bernard Sanford, 63, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the April 17, 2005, shooting death of Nathaniel "Zane" Winters, 45, and the shooting of Winters' sister-in-law, Karen Winters, 46. Karen Winters survived the shooting.

"I'm glad that justice was served," said Nathaniel Winters' sister, Frieda Mathis. "I'm glad that he's not going to have the freedom to walk out in the street, to hurt anyone else, to take any other life."

Authorities said they believe Sanford set the trailer on Sun Catcher Lane in Raleigh on fire and shot the victims after they asked him to move out of the residence.

Sanford -- who was wheeled into a Wake County courtroom Thursday with his arms still bandaged from wounds he sustained in the fire, also pleaded guilty to molesting several young children over a 30-year period.

Family members sifting through the debris from the fire found more than 400 pornographic pictures that included underage children engaging in sexual acts. Some of them included Sanford, authorities said.

A Wake County grand jury indicted Sanford on 20 counts of child sex abuse. Four people have since come forward and have told police they had been molested, but authorities believe there were at least 19 victims.

"It's a tough, tough situation," said George Kelly, the defendant's attorney. "He accepted a life sentence, and that's a hard thing to do, but the alternative was he was facing the death penalty. And we think this was a good result for everybody concerned."


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