Mother told police her son killed himself on Christmas Day. She’s now charged with murder.

Elizabeth Yarborough
Elizabeth Yarborough Clayton Police Department

Nearly a month after a 57-year-old woman told police that her son fatally shot himself on Christmas Day while visiting her home, the mother was charged with his death Wednesday.

Clayton police charged Elizabeth Wilkins Yarborough with second-degree murder in the shooting death of her son, James Benjamin Yarborough Jr., 32, said Stacy Beard, a town spokeswoman. Yarborough was taken into custody from her home on Stetson Lane following a monthlong investigation.

At 2:40 p.m. Christmas Day, Elizabeth Yarborough called 911 from the senior apartment complex where she lived at Riverwood Haven. She told a dispatcher she needed help for her son. Officers arrived and found her son lying just inside the apartment with a single gunshot wound to his head.

“He was lying on the floor behind the front door of the apartment,” Clayton Police Chief Blair Myhand said Wednesday afternoon. “He fell directly behind the front door. His body was blocking officers from entering.”

Yarborough first told the police that her son had shot himself with his own gun and that his death was a suicide. But detectives concluded that his mother was responsible following an extensive review of evidence, interviews and questioning of her.

“We knew before the autopsy report that Mr. Yarborough did not shoot himself,” Myhand said. “Had not the detectives put in the time, working nonstop on this case, someone would have gotten away with murder.”

Myhand said Elizabeth Yarborough had been living at the apartment for about a month before the shooting. There was a history of domestic violence in the family at other addresses where she has been the aggressor, the chief said.

“That’s part of the investigation that led to today’s charges,” said Myhand, who declined to spell out a motive behind the shooting. “They were the only two people in the house. There was some interaction that ultimately led to the shooting. It was hard to prove intent based on statements made to us.”

Yarborough is being held without bond in the Johnston County Detention Center in Smithfield.

Her son’s death is the third murder case in Clayton in the past four years. The most recent homicide was Garrett Howard Bridges, 25, in July of 2016, Beard reported.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald