Local News

Deputies Arrest One, Seek Others in Triple Murder

Posted March 4, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST

— The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has made an arrest in Wednesday's triple murder. Vincent Lee Thomas, 27, of Fayetteville has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury.

Thomas voluntarily appeared Thursday morning to talk to sheriff's deputies after eyewitnesses picked him out of a photo lineup, said Sgt. Stephen McLamb of the Cumberland County sheriff's office.

Investigators say they are still looking for other suspects.

Detectives say five people were tied up and gagged after three people invaded a house on Graham Road. Sisters Channel Coleman, 19, and Vickie Lockhart, 28, were shot to death, along with David Lee Epps, 24, whose brother, Joe Epps Staton, rented the house.

Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler says he believes Thomas was trying to steal money that Joe Epps got in an insurance settlement.

The parents of Coleman and Lockhart says he wants to see the killer pay for these crimes. Byron Coleman, the victims' father, says the punishment should fit the crime.

Two other people were shot, but are recovering at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.

The two survivors -- identified by sheriff's investigators as Thorsten Malin, 21, and Tyrone Parker, 20 -- were in stable condition Thursday.

Sheriff Butler said Wednesday that the killers walked into the home around 1 a.m. after one of them identified himself. Detectives say robbery was the motive, and the crime does not appear to be random.

Each person was shot several times during what investigators believe was a robbery.

The sheriff said investigators believe Joe Epps Staton, David Epps' brother, had received an insurance settlement. Joe Epps Staton and Malin lived in the house where the shooting occurred. Staton was not home at the time.

Shelia Epps, their mother, said Joe Epps Staton had received almost $20,000 in a settlement last year. Mrs. Epps said the money was in a bank account, but her son may have bragged about having it.

``They thought it was in the house,'' she said.

Investigators said they could not say whether anything was missing from the house.

They say deputies were called to the home after Malin managed to untie himself and escape through a bedroom window. Butler said Malin went to the other side of the duplex, where the landlord lived, and someone there called 911 at 1:24 a.m.

Louis Parker, the father of Tyrone Parker, said his son was shot twice, at least once in the head.

``He's out of surgery. He'll live,'' said Parker, who had just driven to Fayetteville from Florida. He said his son was visiting the house where he was shot.

Epps' father, Arthur Epps, said he doesn't know why the five people were shot. ``It's a sad day when people can walk in a house and wipe them out. They were innocent bystanders. My son was an innocent bystander.''