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Woman charged in death of 80-year-old Kenly man

A Selma woman has been charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery in connection with the June death of an 80-year-old Johnston County man.

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KENLY, N.C. — Johnston County deputies arrested a Selma woman early Thursday in connection with the June death of an 80-year-old Kenly man.

Crystal Diane Worley, 37, of 336 Napoleon Road, faces charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the slaying of James Eldridge "Tom" Cooper.

Arrest warrants state that a hatchet was used in the crime and that $526 in cash and a black onyx ring worth about $125 were taken from Cooper's home.

A relative found Cooper dead in his 111 Crumpler Road home in Kenly on June 8. Warrants state that Cooper was killed three days earlier.

Cooper was a retired truck broker – he matched truck drivers with businesses and people that have cargo to ship.

He suffered multiple blows to the head, and his home was locked when his body was found, according to an autopsy report.

Authorities didn't disclose what evidence led to Worley's arrest, but Tammy Amaon, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said that Worley knew Cooper and had done housework and yard work for him.

Worley was taken into custody so early in the morning that she was still wearing her pajamas when she was led into jail.

Making an arrest took a while because investigators wanted to a thorough job and had many people to interview, Amaon said. No other arrests are expected, she said.

Worley is divorced and most recently worked at Olive Farm Supply in Clayton.

Richard Olive, who owns the farm supply store, said Worley worked there on and off for three years. He described her as hard-working and said she "did not have a mean bone in her body."

Worley's criminal record, which dates from 2001, includes multiple convictions for larceny, according to state Department of Correction records.

Court records show that a 2009 charge of felony cocaine possession against Worley was dismissed, but she was given a five-day jail sentence for possession of drug paraphernalia. She also served two months in 2003 after her probation for larceny charges was revoked, DOC records show.

Neighbor Dorothy Taylor said Worley was quiet and kept to herself. Worley's mother and stepfather have custody of her two children, Taylor said.

"In the beginning, she was a just a friendly neighbor. Now, I'm like, I don't know what to think," Taylor said. "I still can't believe she's capable of something like that."

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Renee Chou, Reporter
Kelcey Carlson, Reporter
Tom Normanly, Photographer
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Anne Johnson, Web Editor
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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