Durham slaying trial set to begin

Bondsman's death is focus of hearing

Staff WriterOctober 5, 2006 

— Four years after a bail bondsman was found shot to death, a trial is nearing for one of the men accused of his killing.

Virgil Larome Harris, 40, appeared in court Wednesday with his attorney, who was seeking more evidence and information about the case. Harris is scheduled to face trial later this month in the shooting death of Carl Lanier Greenlaw, a bondsman who was found dead in his car on Nichols Farm Drive in October 2002.

Assistant District Attorney Tracey Cline said in court Wednesday that authorities think that Harris was a member of a criminal organization that was in the business of robbing drug dealers and selling drugs. Greenlaw might have been killed, Cline said, because he earlier had been assaulted by members of that organization and was the prosecuting witness in the assault.

Rahteek Victoria of Garner, also has been charged in the slaying.

But Harris' attorney, Michael Driver of Durham, told a judge that the state has notes in its own file that suggest someone else might have done the killing. Driver said that Titus Cotton, also known as Titus M. Cotten, was mentioned to police as the shooter. Cotton, 24, is serving a life sentence in Bertie Correctional Institution in Windsor for a murder conviction stemming from the death of his girlfriend, Driver said.

Included in the evidence in Harris' case is a state ballistics report that shows the bullet that killed Cotton's girlfriend was fired from the same gun that killed Greenlaw, Driver said.

Driver asked Superior Court Judge Kenneth Titus to order the state to investigate whether Cotton was involved in the Durham case. Titus said the state is not required under the law to do that investigation, but he did order Cline to ask investigators about notes collected in Cotton's case.

Harris is known to law enforcement officers as the "duct tape bandit" for a series of robberies throughout the Triangle in which victims were bound. He is currently serving a 12-year sentence for armed robbery.

Staff writer Benjamin Niolet can be reached at 956-2404 or bniolet@newsobserver.com.

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