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Prosecutors on Monday dropped murder charges against a man accused of killing four people inside a Wilson County home on Christmas Eve 2016.
Dereck Eugene Harris, 31, was slated to stand trial Monday in the quadruple homicide, but prosecutors dismissed all four first-degree murder charges without prejudice, citing uncooperative witnesses and circumstantial evidence.
In August 2017, Harris was charged in the slayings of 47-year-old Selby Gene Outland, 54-year-old Tammy Lynnette Pearce, 28-year-old Paul Shane Pearce and 23-year-old Dominique Nicole Privette.
Tammy and Paul Pearce were mother and son, and Outland and Privette, respectively, were their significant others.
Wilson County Assistant District Attorney Joel Stadiem told the court that the case was circumstantial and there were issues with witnesses leading up to Monday’s start of the trial.
Certain witnesses were served and had not shown up for trial, and another witness changed his or her story last week, officials said.
“The state feels like it cannot proceed in this manner,” Stadiem told the court, adding that prosecutors hope additional evidence will be found so they can re-indict or refile charges at a later time.
Stadiem also said current evidence shows there is more than one perpetrator in the case. And he hopes that all will be caught and tried.
Harris’ attorney, Philip Lane, said his client was relieved Monday.
“He’s maintained his innocence from the very beginning,” Lane told The Wilson Times after the court proceeding.
CHRISTMAS EVE 2016
Neighbors reportedly heard gunshots around 1 a.m. on Dec. 24, 2016.
Nearly 12 hours later, the victims’ family members found bloodshed inside the home in the 2200 block of Banks Lane near Wilson and called 911.
All four victims were found shot to death inside Tammy Pearce’s home, which is located east of U.S. 301 off N.C. 42 East just outside the city limits.
Some were shot multiple times, including Privette, who was shot nine times, according to their autopsy reports. The victims were found in four separate rooms, wearing pajamas, according to their autopsies.
The reports indicate that 9mm and .38-caliber cartridge casings were found at the scene.
The front door was also kicked in.
“We will continue pursuing any leads that arise from the case to bring closure to the family,” Wilson County Sheriff Calvin Woodard told The Wilson Times. “Deputies have attempted to locate witnesses that provided information on the case; however, a couple of witnesses thwarted the deputies’ efforts on locating them. As additional investigatory techniques, information and evidence become available, we will continue our efforts in bringing those responsible to justice for the families.”
Visit WilsonTimes.com for updates to this developing story.