Murder hearing set for today

Published 9:04 pm Monday, July 1, 2013

 Arturo Lopez-Perez

Arturo Lopez-Perez


Three to be sentenced for Bath homicide 

All three men have pleaded guilty to their various roles in the brutal murder of Len Willson III, a Bath man killed during a home invasion on Oct. 5, 2010. Today, how long Arturo Lopez-Perez, Martel Weston and Domonic Farrow will be sentenced to prison will be decided in Beaufort County Superior Court.

Lopez pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in February, a crime that normally carries one of two sentences in North Carolina: life without the possibility of parole or death. But because Lopez was 16 years old at the time the crime was committed, according to federal law, his sentencing options are limited to life (25 years) with the possibility of parole or life without the possibility parole. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it “cruel and unusual punishment” to hand down an automatic life sentence for crimes committed by those under the age of 18. Instead, sentencing must be decided through a special hearing, in what 2nd Judicial District Attorney Seth Edwards has called a “mini-trial.”

Today’s trial has no jury — Superior Court Judge Alma Hinton will weigh the evidence and testimony Edwards will present on the state’s behalf.

Both Weston’s and Farrow’s sentences will also be decided.

On the night of Oct. 5, 2010, Lopez, Weston and Farrow set out to rob Willson’s home, according to Edwards, but what may have started as robbery escalated to murder as Lopez beat the paraplegic Willson to death while Weston was removing Willson’s belongings from the house. Farrow remained in the car parked a block away.

Originally, all three men were charged with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, first-degree arson, armed robbery and felony larceny in relation to Willson’s murder. Weston later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder—part of his plea arrangement involved the dismissal of a number of unrelated drug charges and other misdemeanors, Edwards said.

The original charges against Farrow were replaced with Bills of Information for accessory after the fact to second-degree murder, first-degree arson and robbery with a dangerous weapon, according to Edwards.

The sentencing hearings begin at 10 a.m. in the Superior Courtroom of the Beaufort County Courthouse.