Dog theft trial ends with mixed verdictsPublished 9:05pm Tuesday, May 14, 2013
A Beaufort County Superior Court jury found two Johnston County guilty of communicating threats, but the presiding judge suspended their 90-day sentences and ordered them to pay court costs and fees only.
“I think we’ve heard a case where there was a lot of foolishness on the part of all participants,” said Superior Court Judge Russell Duke Jr.
There was no dispute that Tracey Matthew Narron and his nephew, Robert Manley Narron, had hostile interactions with Aurora residents Valerie and Richard Baxter on two consecutive days in December of 2011. What was in dispute was exactly how those interactions played out in relation to a lost hunting dog, the couple who took the emaciated dog in, how that dog ended up back in the Narrons’ hands and the resulting confrontation that included threats and firearms.
The Narrons maintained that they were not guilty of common-law robbery because they were rightful owners of the dog — by law, it is not possible to steal property that you own. Tracey Narron testified that while he physically took the dog away from Valerie Baxter when he encountered her walking the dog, he never touched Baxter —she fell in the tug-of-war going on between them. Both Robert and Tracey Narron also testified that in a confrontation the following day, Valerie Baxter’s husband, Richard, crossed onto the Narrons’ property, brandishing a weapon, inciting the Narrons to pick up and aim rifles at the Baxters in self-defense. The Baxters maintained that the Narrons pulled guns first and Richard Baxter never left the state road, holding his weapon, a .45 pistol, down by his side, pointed toward the ground throughout the encounter.
During defense attorney John Bramble’s questioning of his witness, Tracey Narron said he told Richard Baxter, “Please don’t raise your arm, I’m going to take it as an act of aggression and I’m going to blow your (expletive) head off,” when Richard Baxter walked onto his property with the pistol in hand.
“Once again, it all boils down to credibility. Who are you going to believe?” District Attorney Seth Edwards asked the jury during closing arguments. Edwards made reference to Tracey Narron’s prior history of resisting arrest and his increasing agitation under cross-examination by the state.
“He was mad (during the incidents) like he’s been all week,” Edwards told the jury. “He decided that he would show the people from Beaufort County how the people in Johnston County act.”
The jury found the Narrons not guilty of common-law robbery and assaulting the Baxters by pointing a weapon. Both men were found guilty of communicating threats and Tracey Narron was found guilty of assaulting a female.
The dog, known by the Narrons as “Crazy,” and by the Baxters as “Maggie,” has since found a home out-of-state because the Baxters were afraid the Narrons would be back for “round two,” according to Edwards.
On Monday, Duke found Tracey Narron in contempt of court and ordered him to serve 96 hours in the Beaufort County Detention Center for an outburst that interrupted court proceedings. Tracey Narron was released after Tuesday’s sentencing.