Local News

Police Arrest Suspect in Sharpsburg Double Shooting

Posted July 17, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Nash County Sheriff Jimmy Grimes has confirmed that authorities have arrested the man charged with shooting his wife and the Sharpsburg police chief. Grimes says Abner Nicholson was arrested at a residence near the mobile home park where the shootings took place Tuesday.

Authorities arrested Nicholson about midnight and took him to the Wilson County Jail. A team of more than 100 law enforcement officers from Edgecombe to Wake counties participated in the extensive manhunt that began just after the shootings and ended with the suspect's arrest.

Grimes didn't have any more information.

A news conference is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Wilson County Sheriff's Department.

Chief Wayne Hathaway is the second area law enforcement officer in the last week to be shot while on duty.

Chief Hathaway was airlifted to Duke Medical Center shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday in critical condition. Duke has what is considered an excellent head trauma treatment facility. A police spokesman said Hale was shot once in the head at pointblank range and "it did not look good", but a relative of Hathaway said he was awake and was able to understand what was being said to him at Nash General. He had 20 to 30 friends and family members with him in the intensive care unit. A hospital spokesperson said no surgery was scheduled.

Hathaway, a 47-year-old divorced father of one son, has been Chief of Sharpsburg's 5-person police force for nearly 25 years.

Hathaway's friend Tim Shearin says those who know him are very worried.

Sharpsburg Police Commissioner Peggy Joyner says the town is in a state of shock.

Gloria Brown Nicholson, 26, wife of the suspect, was shot three times and died at the scene. Her daughter and 14-year-old stepbrother were also shot at, but were not injured. Wilson County Sheriff Wayne Gay said at a press conference that Mrs. Nicholson had requested a warrant for the arrest of her husband on assault charges Wednesday night. Thursday, he said, the suspect returned to the mobile home to get some clothing. That's when the shooting started.

Nicholson is believed to have used a .25-caliber weapon on his wife and Chief Hathaway.

Emily McKenzie lives near the Nicholson home. She said he walked away from the scene carrying a gun in one hand and a plastic bag in the other and looked right at her as he passed.

Nicholson was found guilty of assault in Edgecombe County in 1995 and was charged with assaulting a woman one other time. He also has been charged with trespassing, damage to personal property and, on several occasions, driving without a license. All of the charges were made between 1990 and 1995 and all were in Nash and Edgecombe counties. His last known address was in Whitakers, North Carolina and he once lived in Rocky Mount.

Officers involved in the search were advised to wear body armor and no doubt were recalling last Friday's shooting of Raleigh police Det. Paul Hale. Hale was shot in the head and killed while looking for a murder suspect. He was buried Tuesday and left behind a wife and two daughters.

Thursday's shooting occurred in the Weaver mobile home park in Sharpsburg, a largely rural area where the Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson county lines meet. Hathaway was responding to a domestic dispute complaint at the Nicholson home when he was shot.

Officers surrounded the Starlight motel early Thursday afternoon when they thought Nicholson might have been hiding there. A search of the motel turned up nothing about his whereabouts.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol kept its helicopter up well into the night Thursday searching for Nicholson who fled on foot into nearby corn fields. Earlier in the day, a detective also flew with WRAL's Sky5, which helped with the search. When night fell, the helicopters used heat-sensing technology for searching in the dark. Police had said they would not stop looking until they found Nicholson. Highway patrol officers cordoned of an area with a radius of 5 miles around the crime scene and stopped all vehicles leaving the area to make sure Nicholson was not a stowaway.