The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)


March 28, 2014

Murder trial begins

Jury hears potential motive in slayings


Thursday, March 27, 2014 —

A since retired Albemarle police detective told jurors how he found the handgun shortly after the early morning slayings.

Detective Capt. Jeffrey Swink testified that he discovered the pistol beyond the crime scene tape on the opposite side of a fence in a neighbor’s yard. The weapon was laying in a position that indicated it had been dropped over the fence, he said.

Defense attorney Kirk Bowling used cross examination to suggest police botched the crime scene by failing to properly secure the area. He attempted to show the area where the handgun was found remained accessible to the public after police cordoned off the crime scene.

Bowling continued the same line of defense regarding the collection of evidence, further hinting that evidence protocol was not followed regarding the handgun.

Bowling also attempted to show that police failed to control foot traffic in and out of the crime scene, including paramedics that continued to enter the house after the victims were determined to be deceased.

Paramedics testified that it was obvious upon entry of the home that Lowder was dead as he laid in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound to the head.

They then focused on Shirley Rummage, only to find that she, too, was dead with a bullet wound to the chest.

Smith arrived at the residence shortly after the 2 a.m. crime to find that his uncle and grandmother were dead with Sells also at the home.

After former paramedic Lauren Lisenby testified that she was first to observe what appeared to be a bullet hole in a washing machine, Bowling used her find as an example that police were not doing their job at controlling the crime scene.

Lisenby, now a nurse at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, recalled a hysterical Smith talking to Sells at the scene. She testified as to what she heard the defendant say to Smith.

“He said he was asleep and heard two shots and came out and saw two gentlemen running,” Lisenby said.

Smith died from a drug overdose a month later.

Last fall, a judge awarded Sells bond after Bowling argued that his failing health reduced his flight risk.

Sells appeared in court in a wheelchair.

Court resumes today.

To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email


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The Stanly County Livestock Market sees a rise in activity with higher beef prices.

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