DA frustrated by investigation into sheriff accused of murder plot against ex-deputy

District Attorney Michael Waters said he is frustrated it has taken five years to bring charges against Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins over a recorded conversation in which Wilkins discussed killing a former deputy.

It wasn’t for lack of trying, Waters said.

“It has been a point of frustration that the investigative process has not been more efficient,” he said this week.

In 2014 Waters was in private practice and was concerned for one of his clients, Granville County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Freeman.

Freeman had a recording of the sheriff using racist language, and in a later conversation, Brindell, worried Freeman might release it, said, “The only way you gonna stop him is kill him.”

Later, with no action by the FBI that he knew of, Waters gave a recording of the second conversation to the State Bureau of Investigation, he said in an interview with The News & Observer.

But no charges came until Monday, almost a year after Waters asked Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman to assist with the stalled case.

Indicted Monday on two counts of felony obstruction of justice, Wilkins remains in office. He was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond.

Waters may be called as a witness in the case and is not leading the investigation, though he has vowed assistance from his prosecutor’s office.

On Tuesday, Granville County Attorney Jim Wrenn said he did not know any more about the case other than what had been released publicly.

He said county commissioners discussed the sheriff’s status Tuesday, but they do not hold any supervisory power over his elected position. A state statute allows Wrenn to seek the sheriff’s removal through the courts, but he said he has not heard the recording and does not have enough information to make a decision.

Calls to commissioners in Granville County have so far gone unanswered. The sheriff has not returned calls this week.

Wilkins began serving in 2009 and was reelected most recently in 2018. He was unopposed.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.