Father tight-lipped in court

Caught in media glare, man charged in girl's beheading stays impassive

Staff WriterJanuary 18, 2007 

In a Johnston court appearance, John Violette said that he is poor enough to need an appointed lawyer. No bail was set.


— John Patrick Violette arrived home to Johnston County on Wednesday to meet a blur of camera flashes and the stares of curious onlookers.

A smattering of locals shuffled about the county courthouse for a look at the man police say killed and beheaded his 4-year-old daughter, Katlin. Reporters tracked his every move; officials opened a private staging area outside the jail so the cameramen could get a better shot.

Violette's escort befitted a celebrity. Nearly a dozen law enforcement officers flanked him as he stepped out of the back seat of an unmarked police cruiser. He was flown to the county airport from Washington, D.C., aboard a State Bureau of Investigation plane commissioned just for him. Plainclothes officers kept tabs on Violette's movement with earpieces, another cruiser tailed the car in which he rode. A special session of Johnston County District Court was called so Violette could appear before a judge Wednesday afternoon.

Violette appeared not to care about the to-do and did little to dispel the mystery around him. He barely uttered a word, save to tell a judge he was poor enough to need an appointed lawyer. There were no rants, no sudden movements, no clues as to what was on Violette's mind as he returned to answer to the charge of killing his own daughter.

Katlin's mother, Amber, came home from work Friday evening to find her only child decapitated in the hallway of their Clayton home. Police collected two kitchen knives in their home, one covered with what appeared to be blood.

U.S. Marshals tracked Violette to a Washington hotel less than 12 hours later, following a trail of credit card purchases. When Marshals busted through the door of a room he rented, they found Violette screaming verses from the Bible's book of Revelations.

In court Wednesday, Violette didn't even muster a hello to the lawyer standing by to take his case. Violette merely looked at Selma lawyer Bob Denning and nodded while dozens of law enforcement officers, reporters and courthouse employees leaned closer in the packed courtroom to hear in case Violette spoke.

Johnston County District Court Judge Andy Corbett allowed an hour for Violette to talk with his attorney right after court; the session lasted forty-five minutes. Denning wouldn't say anything about their visit but assured that he had a plan for taking care of his client.

Violette was gone as quickly as he came, off to Central Prison in Raleigh. County jailers often send inmates there if they worry about a high-profile prisoner mingling with the scores of others housed locally. Central Prison also has a mental-health facility.

Katlin's loved ones will say good-bye to her this morning at a funeral at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary.

Those who spent parts of the day with Violette say it is not clear whether he even comprehended that his only child was dead.

Staff writer Mandy Locke can be reached at 829-8927 or mandy.locke@newsobserver.com.

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