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Five Men Will Not Face Death In Fatal Harnett Chase

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HARNETT COUNTY, N.C. — Five murder suspects will not face the death penalty in connection with a botched bank robbery and a high-speed chase that took the life of a mother and a daughter. The decision not to seek the death penalty is getting mixed reviews in the community.

Prosecutors believe the five men tried to rob a bank in Erwin on Aug. 20, 2004. They later sped off and were involved in an accident with another vehicle.

The suspects -- Roame Jackson, John Kelly, Gregory King, Jodie Steele and Stephen Swinton -- walked away from the accident, but Wanda and Shannon Knox did not.

"I actually saw the group that did it and I saw the cops throw them on the ground and stuff and they were trying to run away and they were OK," said Ashley Arnette, a friend of the Knoxes. "I couldn't really say they deserve to die, but they definitely deserve to be punished."

Prosecutors said the death penalty can be a hard sell. Juries do not usually sentence someone to death in car accident cases.

"Just because they used a car, the people still got killed," resident David Bellflower said.

The suspects are all charged with first-degree murder.


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