KINSTON, N.C. — Cheyane Berrier waited more than two decades to face her mother’s killer.
She was just 7 years old when her mother, Benita Murphy, was killed.
Murphy was working a late shift at a convenience store on Feb. 23, 1985, when she was robbed, kidnapped, raped and murdered, police said.
She was 27 years old and had four young children, including Berrier.
DNA evidence cracked the cold case more than 20 years later. On Thursday, Murphy’s children were finally able to face their mother's killer - Johnny Mewborne - during his sentencing hearing in Lenoir County.
“I don’t think I can ever forgive you,” Berrier said. “Since I was 7 years old, I’ve been haunted by a faceless man in my dreams that can come in at any minute and take someone I love, take my family.”
Last year, DNA evidence linked Mewborne to the crime. He was already serving a life sentence for a string of violent crimes, and he admitted to killing Murphy.
Bonnie Murphy was 2-years-old when her mother was killed.
“She has been a stranger to me all my life. I don't have any memories of her. That's been the hardest thing I've had to deal with,” she said.
BJ Murphy was 4 when he lost his mother. He took a different tone when addressing Mewborne Thursday.
“I forgive you,” he said. “I hope you can forgive yourself.”
Mewborne could have faced the death penalty, but he will instead spend the rest of his life in prison, with the family's blessing. The plea agreement spares his life.
“I just want you to know that no matter what happens today, I don’t feel like you’ve gotten what you deserve. I think a life in prison is too easy,” Berrier said. “I think the death penalty is too easy, and I’m glad that you didn’t get it.”
Mewborne said nothing during the court hearing.