Johnston County

Warrants, autopsies shed light on killings

Four months after deputies arrested a man and a woman in a double homicide, the case remains under investigation.

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office is saying little, but search warrants and autopsies shed some light on the March 10 deaths of Matthew Scott Jones and Jessica May Pyatte near Newton Grove.

Both died of gunshot wounds to the head, according to their autopsies, but while Jones was shot twice, Pyatte was shot seven times. Also, two guns were used in the killings, but deputies have charged just one man – Gerald Paul Jr., 21, of Erwin – with murder.

The second person arrested, Tara Nicole Wilson, 19, of Dunn, was charged with being an accessory after the fact of murder. Deputies think she helped Paul flee and destroy evidence, said Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Caldwell.

At the time Johnston deputies charged Paul with murder, he was already in jail in Harnett County, charged with possessing methamphetamine and violating probation. Paul and Wilson are scheduled to appear in Johnston County court on Aug. 1.

More than one shooter?

Caldwell would not say whether deputies had identified additional suspects or whether they thought more than one shooter was involved. Also, he would not disclose the types of guns used or whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the shooting deaths.

The investigation is ongoing and did not end with the two arrests in March, Caldwell said.

Jones, 30, was shot once with a handgun and once with a shotgun, according to the autopsy. Pyatte, 24, suffered handgun wounds to the head, cheek, chin and jaw. She had shotgun wounds to the shoulder, left ear and right leg.

Pyatte was also beaten, suffering a skull fracture, four broken fingers on her right hand, a dislocated finger on her left hand, cuts and bruises. Caldwell would not speculate about why Pyatte’s wounds were more severe.

Deputies found their bodies inside a house on Unity Drive near Alonzo Road north of Newton Grove. The medical examiner’s report noted spent shotgun shells and small-caliber shell casings in the room where the bodies were. The autopsy found no alcohol in Jones or Pyatte’s systems.

Jones’ 2-year-old son was in the home but was unharmed.

Details in search warrant

Paul and Wilson were a couple and were living with Jones and his girlfriend at the house on Unity Drive, according to a search warrant. Pyatte wasn’t Jones’ girlfriend.

When deputies first interviewed Wilson, she told them her brother picked her up from the house the night of March 9, the day before the fatal shootings. Deputies later learned that was not true, according to one of the many warrants obtained in the case.

From the house, deputies collected as evidence a wooden hand rail, drywall, cigarettes, upholstery, an iPad and media cards, among other things.

Sheriff’s detectives also searched a white 1992 Chevrolet Camaro that Paul’s mother said he had been test driving. Witnesses said a loud, white car was at the home before the murders. The 1992 Camaro was fitted with aftermarket parts to make it louder, according to a search warrant.

From the white Camaro, deputies collected guns and ammunition, blood, hair, drugs and cell phones.

A witness told detectives that on the day of the murders, Paul and a friend, Kyle Price of Kenly, left the house together in the morning. Cell phone records show that their phones were near the crime scene that morning, according to the search warrants.

The warrants identify persons of interest in the shootings, including Paul’s stepfather, William Harper Little, and an ex-boyfriend of Pyatte’s, David Robert Stanley. Neither has been arrested.

According to the search warrant, Little’s wife told investigators that her husband knew details of the deaths that had not been made public, including the nature of Pyatte’s injuries. Deputies searched Little’s home. Stanley, arrested March 11 on unrelated charges, told deputies he had nothing to do with the killings.

Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett

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