Arrests made in 2 homicides|Each suspect faces a charge of murder

Published 7:51 pm Friday, September 25, 2009

Community Editor

Arrests have been made in two separate homicides that occurred in Beaufort County earlier this year.
Erick “Lil-E” Smallwood, 20, was arrested Wednesday and charged with an open count of murder in the shooting death of Neal Whitney.
John Lynelle Bryant, 35, of N.C. Highway 33 East, Chocowinity, was arrested Thursday and charged with an open count of murder in the death of Glen McCullough Jr.
Whitney was fatally shot the morning of Aug. 29 at Lil’ John’s Club in Chocowinity. Whitney, 21, of Taylor Road in Chocowinity, died shortly after suffering a gunshot wound to the torso around 3 a.m., according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
More than 80 people were at the club on U.S. Highway 17 in Chocowinity when deputies responded to a report of shots fired, the sheriff’s office said.
Thursday afternoon, Whitney’s mother, Sharon Whitney, said she was relieved than an arrest had been made in the case, but she questioned why it took almost a month to make it.
“I’ve been wondering why it was taking so long when they have that many witnesses,” she said.
Whitney, who works as a care partner at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, said she heard that her son was trying to break up a fight between Smallwood and a friend when he was shot.
“My son wasn’t even involved in the fight,” she said.
Smallwood, a resident of Bridge Street in Washington, made his first appearance in court Thursday. He is being held in the Beaufort County Detention Center without benefit of bail.
“I don’t think he deserves bail,” Whitney said.
“I’m happy they got him off the streets. How long he’s going to be off the streets, I don’t know,” she said.
According to Whitney, her son grew up playing youth football and basketball with Smallwood.
“When the children were telling me (who he was), I couldn’t put a face to him,” she said. “Then, when I saw who it was, I said, ‘That’s a surprising thing.’”
Whitney’s mother said she wants some answers from Smallwood.
“I want him to tell me what triggered him to do this,” she said.
Whitney said her son didn’t drink or do drugs, and often he was a peacemaker.
“My son wasn’t a bad child,” she said.
He was a former standout for the Southside High School football team. During his senior year, he was named the 2006 WDN Defensive Player of the Year. He received the Southside Football Seahawk Award in 2006-07, which is given to the player “that exemplifies what a Seahawks player is, not necessarily the best player on the team or the best athlete, but a good player, with a strong work ethic; someone that is in the weight room all the time; a good student, well behaved, a hard worker, a hustler and just a good all-around person.”
Whitney said she has faith that justice will be served because her son was a good person.
“I don’t want any mother and father going through what we did,” she said.
Smallwood, who had a string of arrests before being arrested Wednesday, has served at least one prison term in the past.
Smallwood’s first arrest as an adult came on Oct. 26, 2005, when he was charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He was convicted on Dec. 29, 2005, and given probation, which he violated and subsequently received a 45-day suspended sentence.
Smallwood’s second arrest on July 3, 2006, in which he was charged with felony possession with intent to sell and deliver Percocet, triggered a string of related incidents.
A little over a month later, on Aug. 16, he was arrested and charged with felony possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine.
On Oct. 19 of the same year, he was arrested and charged with felony assault after allegedly pointing a gun at Johnnie Hyman. On Nov. 16 of that year, he was arrested on a charge of intimidating a witness, Hyman.
On Dec. 21 of that year, he was arrested and charged again with intimidating Hyman. Two days later, Smallwood was released from jail after his father posted a $10,000 unsecured bond.
Smallwood was convicted on July 28, 2008, of intimidating a witness and possession with intent to sell and deliver a controlled substance. The charges were consolidated in a plea bargain. As part of the plea bargain, the felony assault charge was dropped.
Smallwood was sentenced to serve eight to 10 months in prison, but he served a longer sentence — one year, seven months and 25 days — for seven infractions committed while in prison: fighting, unauthorized tobacco use, two instances of disobeying an order, two instances of involvement with a gang and assault on a person with a weapon.
He was released from prison June 16 of this year.
McCullough, 34, of Choco Village Road, was reported missing June 1 and had not been seen or heard from since May 30, according to the sheriff’s office.
McCullough’s body was found on the side of Little Egypt Road in Blounts Creek on June 4 by person who reported it to the sheriff’s office. Deputies and investigators collected evidence and submitted it to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s crime laboratory for analysis.
Bryant’s most recent conviction came in Pitt County on April 4, 2003, when he was sentenced to serve probation after being convicted of possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana.
He served time in prison in 1991 for misdemeanor assault.