Officers at trial recount events of 2007 stabbing death

Staff WriterFebruary 2, 2011 

— Tory Nelson, 21, faces trial this week in the 2007 slaying of an 89-year-old church deacon.

Authorities say Nelson broke into Charles Davis' home in rural northeastern Durham County, stabbedDavis and drove off in his 1993 Buick Century on the night of Sept. 26, 2007. The car, worth about $2,000, was the only property taken from the home.

Davis' body was discovered that evening when his brother-in-law, James Taylor, brought Davis' wife, Sallie, home from dialysis treatment after Davis failed to come for her.

Taylor saw Davis' body lying in the living room as he brought his sister in her wheelchair into the ransacked home.

A witness reported seeing Davis' missing car about an hour before authorities learned of the killing and suspected who was behind the wheel, according to a search warrant.

As the trial opened Tuesday, deputies testified they caught Nelson and an accomplice about 7 the morning after the slaying.

Cpl. J.P. Carden said officers were on the lookout for Davis' white Buick when Carden passed a car like that on East Club Boulevard.

"The driver turned his head and looked at me and just gave me this big-eyed look," Carden said.

The corporal chased the car down a dead-end street, where he said he saw the empty car and two men running through the woods toward East Club and East Geer streets. That's where Deputy Alex Champagne stopped them.

Nelson's alleged accomplice, Stephon Hinton, 19, has pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen motor vehicle in exchange for testifying against Nelson. In the plea arrangement, the district attorney's office dismissed charges of murder, vehicle theft, breaking and entering and armed robbery.

Hinton faces a maximum of 2-1/2 years in prison for the crime, but he won't be sentenced until after he testifies.

Investigators suspect more than two were involved, but only Hinton and Nelson were charged.

Davis' family members and church members crowded the small courtroom Tuesday. A World War II veteran, Davis was known for his gardening and his peaceful, happy attitude.

Pastor James Freeman, who worked with Davis at the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, said some church members couldn't bear to relive the crime after so many years.

"They're just kind of disgusted," he said outside the courtroom. "It just brings back so many memories."

Freeman said Davis lived less than a mile from the church, as do many of the church's 200 members.

Nelson and Hinton were also neighbors whom Davis fed and invited into his home.

"He took care of 'em, gave 'em money," Freeman said.

The trial is expected to last at least into next week.

jesse.deconto@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8760

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