Defendant pleads guilty in Times carrier’s death

Crabtree’s death attributed to sudden cardiac arrest

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A man who prosecutors say was responsible for the death of a newspaper carrier last year will spend several years behind bars.

On Monday, 42-year-old Robert Thomas Greene pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter in the killing of Janice Crabtree, who was found dead in her car on April 14 at the city’s Operations Center entrance gate. Prosecutors said Crabtree’s medical examiner report indicated a homicide due to sudden cardiac arrest.

Crabtree, an independent contractor for The Wilson Times, delivered newspapers to homes and local businesses for single copy and rack sales.

Nash County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Quentin T. Sumner, who presided over the court proceeding held in Wilson County Superior Court, sentenced Greene to 51 to 74 months in prison. That equals roughly four to six years.

Crabtree, 61, was working in the early morning hours when Greene followed her in his truck and then approached her at a convenience store, according to Wilson County Assistant District Attorney Joel Stadiem.

Stadiem said Crabtree drove away, but Greene pursued her. She then pulled into at the entrance gate of the Wilson Operations Center.

Crabtree tried to escape again, but Greene maneuvered his truck so she couldn’t get out, Stadiem said. He also rammed her car.

At one point, Greene approached her car, leaned into the window and went back to his truck. Stadiem said surveillance cameras showed the activity.

There was no indication the two knew each other, officials said.

Stadiem said Greene admitted to authorities that he was involved.

Crabtree was a loyal carrier who had delivered newspapers for The Wilson Times for years.

An hour after the incident with Crabtree, Greene followed another woman in her car for several miles on Macedonia Road and N.C. 582 in Nash County. Greene tried to run the woman off the road and was using “aggressive” maneuvers, Spring Hope police said at the time.

The woman, who was on the phone with Nash County 911 dispatchers as the incident unfolded, was guided to the L&L Store on Nash Street in Spring Hope where police awaited her arrival. Greene also followed the woman into the parking lot and threatened her as well as the police officer, officials said at the time.

Spring Hope police took out an involuntary commitment order on Greene. He was taken to Nash County General Hospital, where hospital officials said he assaulted a nurse.

Greene was initially charged in Wilson County with felony murder, according to records. Under the felony murder rule, a defendant can be convicted of murder if he or she kills a victim unintentionally during the commission of a serious crime. Charges from the Nash County incident were dropped in exchange for his plea deal Monday in Crabtree’s death.


Greene’s attorney, Tom Sallenger, entered several exhibits to the court Monday before his client was sentenced, including a psychological evaluation that determined Greene was capable to proceed with the plea.

Greene does have a history of mental illness, including bipolar disorder, which was first identified at a young age, Sallenger told the court.

Sallenger said Greene was experiencing a manic episode and not taking his medications at the time the incident occurred.

Greene did address the court Monday. At one point he asked Crabtree’s family for forgiveness but then claimed, “This woman was a walking heart attack waiting to happen.”

Greene told the court he was suffering from a “mental episode” at the time of the incident but later called it a “mental/spiritual encounter” with Crabtree. He claimed he got angry about other family-related issues.

“She was there,” he said.

Janice Crabtree’s husband of 38 years, Donald, wasn’t buying what Greene told the court.

“He knew what he was doing the whole time,” Donald Crabtree told the court. He also added that Greene intentionally followed his wife and blocked her in that morning so that she couldn’t escape.

He asked the judge to give Greene the maximum sentence.

Greene, a veteran and electrician for years, told the court he attended Bible college for a year.

olivia@wilsontimes.com | 265-7879