Prosecutors can seek death penalty in Enfield quadruple homicide

May 23, 2018 GMT

A Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can seek the death penalty against three of four men charged with killing two couples in an Enfield home last summer.

Matthew Lewis Simms, 25, of Enfield, Keyon Quarice West, 23, and James Edward Powell, 25, both of Roanoke Rapids, and Dontayvious Devonte “Moochie” Cotton, 24, of Weldon, all face four counts of first-degree murder.

Janice Harris, James Harris, Peggy Whitley and James Whitley were shot on Aug. 21 while sitting at the Harrises’ kitchen table playing cards, authorities said.

“This is scary for all citizens of North Carolina, to just be in your own house, to be having a good time [and be killed],” said Donald Hilhorst, James Harris’ son-in-law.

Authorities said a family member went to check on the residents of the home at 980 Fishing Creek Road, in the Glenview community west of Enfield, and found the bodies. Some items were missing from the home, but there were no apparent signs of a struggle, authorities said at the time.

Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp has said that the home might have been targeted and the killings might have been gang-related, but authorities have provided few details of their investigation and what led them to the four suspects.

Jim Harris, 88, was a gunsmith and had a federally licensed firearm business that he ran out of his home.

James Whitley, 76, was a farmer and his 67-year-old wife a former hairstylist. Janice Harris, 72, was an administrative assistant for a local builder.

“It was absolutely devastating when we got the house back and had to go in there and see what happened in there,” Hilhorst said. “I wouldn’t want anybody, any citizen of North Carolina, to see what we saw in there.”

While Judge Alma Hinton agreed that there was enough evidence against Simms, Powell and Cotton to declare them capital cases, she postponed a hearing for West because he has had little contact with an attorney since his January arrest. The judge appointed new attorneys for West.

“We’re still in a really early stage, and we really have to wait and see what happens,” Hilhorst said. “The only thing that keeps us is the grace of God. If we did not have our faith, I don’t know where we would be.”