The first of two men charged in a 2012 double homicide north of Hillsborough was sentenced Monday in Orange County Superior Court to between 48 and nearly 63 years for second-degree murder and armed robbery.
Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour sentenced Curtis Kantawiti White Jr., 22, of Cedar Grove, to between 30 and 38 years for the murders of Alexander “Skip” Wade, 68, and Phillip Johnson, 52. White also will serve between 18 and 25 years for three counts of armed robbery.
White and Ladell Alverez Faucette, 26, of McLeansville, initially were charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 25, 2012, crime at the Week in Treasures thrift store on Mill Creek Road in Cedar Grove. Faucette is still in jail awaiting trial in the murders.
Family members of both victims were in court for Monday’s hearing but declined to comment.
“Obviously, for them, this was a horrible, tragic loss,” Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said.
“For Mrs. Wade to discover her husband and his friend in this situation, and then for, at that time, Mrs. Johnson to be called and to find out that something had happened at the store that day,” he said. “Mrs. Johnson had always been concerned about that store, located in an isolated place, and quite frankly, a few years before, the person who owned the store had also been killed in a robbery.”
The 2004 robbery and murder of former store owner Bill King was never solved. The store has been demolished in recent years.
Woodall said Wade, a retired investigator with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, had gone with his wife that day to see her mother-in-law, who lived near the store, and left early to visit with Johnson, the store owner.
The men were friends and played pool together, Woodall said. When Wade’s wife showed up about 20 minutes later and beeped the horn, Wade didn’t come out, he said. She walked up to the store’s entrance, he said, and saw the men on the floor.
Both were shot in the head, Woodall said. Wade died later at Duke Hospital.
As Wade’s wife was on the phone with 911, Woodall said, White and Faucette drove into the parking lot. White had known Wade since he was a young boy, Woodall said. He asked Wade’s wife if the store was open and if she was OK, he said.
Orange County deputies arrived quickly and talked with White and Faucette, Woodall said. They said they were shopping and target practicing earlier, and had stopped by the store to get fishing equipment, he said. They denied knowing about the shooting.
“One may never know exactly why the defendant made the decision to drive back there, but they were headed back there because whenever they got the cash register in the car, they realized there was very little money in the cash register, maybe 20 dollars,” Woodall said. “The defendant thought that both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Wade kept a lot of money on their person, and they had forgotten to check the pockets.”
Deputies later learned that a State Highway Patrol trooper ticketed White for speeding on the way to the store, he said. They recovered 22-caliber shell casings and a bullet from the scene, which a state lab confirmed came from a semi-automatic handgun found at White’s home.
Deputies also found a lot of change in White’s car, raising their suspicions, Woodall said, because of the change scattered around the crime scene.
Woodall said the men, in later interviews, gave different stories. Faucette admitted being involved in the crime but blamed White for the robbery and murders. White at first blamed his uncle for forcing them into the robbery and shooting the men, Woodall said. He later changed that story and said he and Faucette went into the store together, and Faucette shot the men, Woodall said.
White and Faucette also admitted to a Jan. 24, 2012, robbery at Sam’s Food Mart on U.S. 70 near Mebane, Woodall said. Deputies searching White’s car found two gloves, a toboggan with eye holes cut out and a jacket with patches on it that were described by a witness in that robbery.