Local News

SBI doubts claim that ex-officer ordered hit

Posted June 3, 2009 6:33 p.m. EDT

— A Spring Lake police officer arrested last month in a corruption case is at the center of a murder-for-hire investigation, police said Wednesday.

An inmate at Central Prison claims former Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr. offered to pay him $10,000 to kill two Spring Lake Police Department employees.

Coulter was indicted May 4 on an array of charges, including kidnapping, assault, breaking and entering and obstruction of justice. Indictments allege that he participated in an April 2008 home invasion in which three men were held at gunpoint and that he asked subordinate officers to falsify a report about a September raid on a motel room in which $2,900 was seized.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office took over all law enforcement in Spring Lake after Coulter and another officer were arrested. The police chief resigned the following day amid allegations that he was shredding department files.

Coulter is being held in protective custody in Central Prison.

George Stokes, an inmate in the same cell block, wrote a May 13 letter to Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis, saying Coulter told him he had nothing to do with stealing money from the evidence room and that Coulter wanted to exact revenge on two former co-workers who he thought had implicated him in the theft.

"He said (his) associate will contact me and give me $5,000 cash advance and the other half once I completed the hit," Stokes wrote in the letter. "I haven't give him an answer, but I'm not gonna take any money or kill anyone."

The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the murder-for-hire allegations, and interim Spring Lake Police Chief Gregg Jarvies said the letter appears to be bogus.

"(An SBI agent) believes, based on a lot of inconsistencies in the letter and during his interview, that it's not a credible threat. We've notified the officers of the threat. We certainly have to notify them – err on the side of caution," Jarvies said.

One inconsistency, Jarvies said, was that Stokes claims he was confronted by Coulter on April 8, which was a month before Coulter was arrested.

Stokes has a lengthy criminal record that includes convictions for felony breaking and entering, a sex crime and communicating threats.

Jarvies said Stokes might have written the letter to curry favor with authorities and obtain a shorter sentence. Threats against law officers aren't uncommon, he said.

"It's part of the job. You don't think about ... threats being leveled," he said.