Local News

State's oldest inmate dies at age 90

Posted July 23, 2012 3:19 p.m. EDT
Updated July 23, 2012 3:24 p.m. EDT

— The state's oldest inmate is dead.

Authorities said Frank Wetzel died over the weekend at Raleigh's Central Prison. He was 90.

Wetzel was convicted in 1958 of killing two State Highway Patrol troopers – W.L. Reece and James Brown – a year earlier.

Reece stopped Wetzel in Richmond County for driving a stolen car and was shot before he drew his gun. Brown stopped Wetzel in Lee County a short time later.

A manhunt that may have been the largest in North Carolina history involved 500 officers. The state's borders were sealed, but still Wetzel made it to California before being arrested by the FBI.

Wetzel, who was serving two life sentences, had been denied parole several times since becoming eligible for release in 1977. He maintained he was innocent, pointing to the timing of the murders as proof.

Reece was fatally shot at 8 p.m. Brown was shot 47 miles away between 15 and 20 minutes later.