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Police Make 3 Arrests in Chocolate City Murder

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FRANKLINTON — Franklin County authorities made three arrest in the fatal stabbing of a man at the Chocolate City nightclub last month.

Since 1990, five people had been killed at the club, which police called the deadliest nightclub in town.

The sheriff says about 200 people were partying illegally inside the night club at 1 a.m. when the stabbing happened.

Sheriff Robert Redmond said multiple gunshots were fired at the location, but that several suspects stabbed 28-year-old Jonathan Smith inside the club.

Police charged Dennis Gibbs, 22; Jasper Henderson, 24; and Tony Henderson, 30, with first-degree murder. All three are from Durham.

The sheriff says as many as eight people could end up being arrested in the case.

"I don't know of a place in this county where this number of murders have happened over this long of a period," Redmond said. "It's not just the last eight years."

Just four days after the murder, flames engulfed the nightclub, but only the base of the cinder block structure remained intact.

For the families of the murder victims, the destructive fire was too little, too late.

"When I found out the young man had died there, it hurt my heart. This is a bad place," says Bennett Manson, whose sister and niece were shot to death in the parking lot of the club three years ago.

"Two deaths should have been enough to keep this place from being open," he said.

Redmond says there were numerous crimes committed before 1990 when a court order shut the club down. However, he says the late night parties went on anyway.

"What was reported to be going on is just groups of people having parties. But as you can see, when we entered this place Sunday morning, there is no doubt in my mind that it was an operating nightclub," Redmond said.

Police say the arson investigation is still underway.

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Todd Hauer, Reporter
Greg Clark, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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