Family members of John Elliott Neville said Tuesday that they support the public release of video taken inside Forsyth County jail that can shed light on circumstances surrounding Neville’s death in December 2019. The family was previously opposed to releasing the body-camera videos and other footage.
“After considerable deliberation, discussion and much prayer, the Neville family has decided that it is time for the public to see the video depicting the last moments of their father’s life,” the family’s statement reads. “While they initially hoped to keep the matter private, it is clear that will never be possible.”
The family said in the statement that they appreciate all the agencies that were willing to honor their wishes.
A coalition of news organizations, including the Winston-Salem Journal, the Greensboro News & Record, The News & Observer of Raleigh and The New York Times, have petitioned the courts to release the video. A hearing will be held on the matter at 11 a.m. today in Forsyth Superior Court.
“The family members have not made this decision in a vacuum,” the statement said. “They are aware that what happened to their father has happened to countless other sons, brothers, uncles, cousins, fathers, and grandfathers. While by law they do not have any standing to support or oppose the decision that will be made on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, they feel it is necessary for all of the stakeholders, protesters, and the community at large to know that they will not stand in the way of full transparency.”
John Neville, 56, of Greensboro died on Dec. 4, 2019, at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, three days after he was put in the custody of the Forsyth County jail. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office did not make public Neville’s death for seven months and provided only limited information about it on June 26, after questions from the Winston-Salem Journal. Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. said part of the reason he kept quiet about the death was because attorneys for Neville’s family asked him to do so.
According to his autopsy report, Neville died from a brain injury caused when his heart stopped beating. He asphyxiated while being restrained in the hog-tie position at the jail.
He had suffered a seizure while asleep and fallen from a top bunk bed to the concrete floor. Disoriented, he struggled with detention officers, who put him in handcuffs and ankle restraints and moved him to another cell. Eventually, he was put into what is known as a hog-tie position — his arms handcuffed behind his back and his legs folded up toward his buttocks.
During that time, he told detention officers at least 10 times that he could not breathe. At least twice, the response from detention officers was, “Come on, buddy, if you can talk, you can breathe,” according to three independent sources familiar with the investigation.
Five former detention officers and a nurse have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case: Lt. Lavette Maria Williams, 47; Cpl. Edward Joseph Roussel, 50; Officer Christopher Bryan Stamper, 42; Officer Antonio Jr., 26; Officer Sarah Elizabeth Poole, 36; and nurse Michelle Heughins, 44.
Neville’s death has sparked weeks of daily protests in Winston-Salem. The Triad Abolition Project and the Unity Coalition have staged all-day events at Bailey Park, demanding answers from Kimbrough and Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill and accusing them of covering up Neville’s death. They have not asked for the videos to be released.
Black Lives Matter Winston-Salem has demanded release of the videos.
The petition from the news organizations asks for the public release of video footage that shows Neville’s arrest on Dec. 1, 2019, by Kernersville police, who took him into custody on charges of assaulting a female in Guilford County. It also asks for video footage that shows what happened to Neville while he was in custody, including any restraint or force used.
“There are video recordings from various angles, with audio, that capture the activities and movements of the charged defendants, and their subsequent conduct, in response to Mr. Neville’s initial medical crisis,” according to a court motion O’Neill filed to continue the media’s request for access..
Heughins, one of the former detention officers charged, has filed a court motion opposing the release of video footage, and it is likely that the other criminal defendants will also oppose release. O’Neill has said he would oppose the media’s petition, saying he has to guarantee that criminal defendants get a fair trial.
On Monday, Kris Neville and Brienne Thornton, two of John Neville’s three children, spent time at Bailey Park and told the organizers that they appreciated the support and advocacy for their father. Kris Neville said in an Instagram video that it took him a long time to process his father’s death and called what happened to him unfair and inhumane.
One year after the Winston-Salem community was engulfed in controversy over the name of the annual fair, COVID-19 has weighed in to force the cancellation of this year’s version of the fair altogether.
City officials said that, because of persisting COVID-19 cases in Forsyth County, along with the ongoing restrictions for mass gatherings statewide, this year’s fair is no-go.
This fall was to have been the debut of the Carolina Classic Fair, the new name that emerged last year to replace what for decades was the Dixie Classic Fair.
The 10-day fair, one of the biggest annual draws in Forsyth County, had been scheduled to take place Oct. 2-11.
City officials said their top priority is to ensure the public’s safety during the pandemic. With annual fair attendance close to 300,000, city leaders are concerned there is no way to eliminate the risk of spreading the virus among fair attendees.
“We have been monitoring the statistics and the number of cases statewide,” said Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe. “We also saw the state had in place a limitation on mass gatherings. It was hard to believe that we could go from having no more than 25 outdoors to thousands.”
Although the Phase 2 restrictions that limit crowds to 25 are currently scheduled to end Aug. 7, Rowe said, Gov. Roy Cooper has the option to extend Phase 2, as he has already done once.
City officials could see how other events were getting canceled: The N.C. Mountain State Fair, which kicks off in September, was canceled earlier this month. The Lexington Barbecue Festival, which operates after the local fair, has also bitten the dust this year.
“When the school system announced their plans to go to virtual learning, and when the governor decided to extend Phase 2 until Aug. 7, that created more urgency,” Rowe said. “August 7 is real close to that go, no-go decision about the middle of August.”
Earlier this summer, city and fair officials had been working on a plan to have a downsized fair that would have had social-distancing features and would have likely had a 25% drop in attendance.
The city had had consultations with Strates Shows Inc., which operates the carnival on the midway, and had talked with the committees involved in fair planning about how to go about modifying the fair for COVID-19.
“We had crafted a responsible plan that I thought could do it,” Rowe said. He added that council members were contacted individually when he and other city staffers came to the more recent conclusion that cancellation was the only way to go.
“Everyone acknowledges it was a difficult decision but that it was the right thing to do,” Rowe said, adding he has not gotten any pushback from council members on the decision.
City staff estimate that canceling the fair will result in a loss of $670,000 for the year. Had even a reduced fair gone forward, Rowe said, the city could have instead netted some $340,000.
Fairground reserves will allow the city to absorb the loss this year, Rowe said.
Mayor Allen Joines said that not holding the fair is the correct course of action given the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases in Forsyth County.
“Unfortunately, the numbers are not trending in our favor,” Joines said. “We will look forward to celebrating the new name of the Carolina Classic Fair and putting on a fair second to none in 2021. We want our citizens and visitors to Forsyth County to be safe and healthy so that we can look forward to this great event next fall.”
The fairgrounds staff will explore ways to hold certain aspects of the Carolina Classic Fair virtually. More information about these opportunities will be posted on the Carolina Classic Fair’s website, carolinaclassicfair.com.
“It might be where people can show their arts and crafts online,” Rowe said. “People have put a lot of time into those things.”
Chris King, who runs the pop-up drive-in theater The Drive at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds, said that he is in communications with fairground officials and hopes to continue operating the drive-in beyond the current lease period.
It was scheduled to end Sept. 12 to allow the fair enough time to convert the midway back for its traditional use as a venue for rides and games. King said he hopes to continue The Drive through at least October.
That sounds like a plan, according to Rowe: “That is something we will definitely explore. We will be looking at ways to generate revenue and hold events within the local guidelines. We are still holding the farmer’s market every Saturday.”
The fair is one of many events that have been called off because of the pandemic. Also in Winston-Salem, the Bowman Gray Racing season and the fall season for WSSU football have been canceled.
A lot has already been done to rebrand the fairgrounds in light of last year’s decision to drop the name Dixie Classic Fair.
A group of people came to a Winston-Salem City Council committee meeting in April of 2019 to say that the name Dixie in the fair had connotations of the old south and slavery.
The appeal for a new name kicked off months of controversy and heated exchanges that all came to a head last October when the city council voted 6-2 to change the name of the fair to Carolina Classic.
Since then, the fair focus has been on rebranding, including new coats of paint and signage.
“We were moving full steam ahead to get the fairgrounds ready and unveil our new brand,” Rowe said.
The last call for alcohol will be shortened statewide to 11 p.m., beginning Friday, as part of the Cooper administration’s effort at slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 153 on Tuesday, which places a curfew on restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries from selling alcoholic drinks from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. through at least 11 p.m. Aug. 31.
Private bars and clubs remain closed. The order does not apply to grocery stores, convenience stores or other entities permitted to sell alcohol for off-premises consumption.
Local orders, such as in Charlotte, Raleigh and Orange County, that end alcohol sales before 11 p.m. or that apply to other entities remain in effect.
“Slowing the spread of this virus requires targeted strategies that help lower the risk of transmission,” Cooper said.
“This will be particularly important as colleges and universities are scheduled to start, bringing people all over the country to our state. We have seen case numbers increase among younger people, and prevention is critical to slowing the spread of the virus.”
For example, in Forsyth County individuals between the ages of 15 and 44 continued to account for the majority (56%) of COVID-19 cases. Those ages 65 and older represent 8.9%, and those ages 14 and under, 9.7%.
Cooper said he wants “to prevent restaurants from turning into bars after hours ... lessening social distancing and more milling around.”
“Now that we have become stable with our (COVID-19) numbers, we want to drive them down, and this is one of the ways we believe will be effective.”
Cooper said the executive order provides authority to the state’s Alcohol Law Enforcement and Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission officials to enforce the curfew, including taking the license to sell alcoholic beverages.
A violation of the curfew is punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Officials with three local brewpubs and restaurants said they were not surprised by Cooper’s executive order, given the curfews put into place by the state’s two largest cities.
“We’ve been closing early to prevent the ‘drunk touching’ that happens late night in bar settings,” said Jamie Bartholomaus, president and co-owner of Foothills Brewing.
“We have been closing at 10 p.m. during weekdays and 11 p.m. weekends at our place in effort to reduce exposure risk, so it won’t affect much at all.
“Our accounts in the market will probably sell a little less draft,” Bartholomaus said. “But as we are only selling 40% of the draft we sold last year because of retail limitations, a small drop from there won’t change much for us.”
Lori Shaver, owner of Pine Tree Tavern on Bethania Station Road, said “I sympathize with the people who are making the decisions because it is hard.”
“There are so many people hurting that need to open up. It seems like it is not getting better. I feel bad for those who cannot open back up.”
Shaver said she has been closing up between 9 and 10 p.m. weeknights, but staying open later on the weekends along with keeping the restaurant’s kitchen available for meals.
Shaver said it will be hard to tell the impact at this point of the governor’s decision.
“We sell a lot of food, so we try to stay open a little later than some people,” she said. “There are not many places open later on this side of town.”
Shanti Jehlicka, manager of Quiet Pint Tavern on First Street, said it didn’t take long for customers to begin talking about the governor’s curfew order.
“It is disappointing that we are at this stage where we are going to have to close down early, but we understand and want to be safe,” Jehlicka said.
“We understand the decision made by the governor. We just have to do our part, and hopefully this will be over soon.”
More than two years after a Dobson woman was found strangled and stuffed inside a garbage can, Winston-Salem police have charged a man with murder in her death.
Ann Marie Carter, 34, was found strangled and beaten near a trailer park in a wooded area at 3420 Old Greensboro Road on Jan. 6, 2018. Her husband, Carl, had reported her missing on Christmas Eve, about two weeks before her body was found.
Winston-Salem police charged Anton Thurman McAllister, 43, with murder on Tuesday. McAllister was previously charged with conspiracy to commit a felony and concealment of a death resulting from unnatural causes in relation to the case. He is being held in the Forsyth County Jail with no bond allowed.
Winston-Salem police did not say what evidence led them to now charge McAllister with murder but said investigators had been working closely with the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office on the case.
Carter’s husband said she and McAllister went to run an errand at 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 24, 2017, leaving Salem Crossing Apartment Homes about four miles from where her body would eventually be found. The couple talked by phone four hours later, at 4 a.m. She was never heard from or seen alive again. Her husband reported her missing to police about 6:25 a.m. after he was not able to reach her.
Police have said Ann and Carl Carter had conspired with McAllister to sell the prescription drug Percocet.
Carl Carter was charged with conspiracy on March 10, 2018, but he died three months later, on July 22. An autopsy report said a drug overdose caused his death.
Before he died, Carl Carter denied the conspiracy charge and publicly mourned his wife’s death. He said his wife, who had fibromyalgia, was on prescription pain medication and had run out. He said she and McAllister were going to find two Percocet pills. Carl Carter said he lamented that he did not go with them.
He also said that he and his wife met McAllister at a gas station on Peters Creek Parkway. Carl Carter said the couple gave McAllister some money to buy beer, then gave him a ride to what they thought was McAllister’s girlfriend’s apartment on Salem Valley Road.
But search warrants said when Carl Carter reported his wife missing, he told police that he and his wife came to Winston-Salem to buy pain pills for Ann Carter. They went to a strip club at 400 Peters Creek Parkway on Dec. 23 and an unknown man directed them to McAllister. They all went to several places to find the pain medication before going to an apartment on Salem Valley Road. The club is about a mile from the apartment.
Carl Carter stayed at the apartment when his wife and McAllister left again to find pills, according to search warrants. Ann Carter’s car was found in the 1600 block of East 25th Street near Jackson Avenue in a gravel area the same day her body was found. The car was about 3 miles from where her body was found.
The search warrant said blood was found in the back seat. McAllister gave a statement to police saying that he was with Ann Carter but denied killing her. Detectives noted several deep scratches on his arms that were still healing.
Anyone with information regarding the investigation should contact the Winston-Salem Police Department at (336) 773-7700 or Crime Stoppers at (336) 727-2800. Crime Stoppers may also be contacted via “Crime Stoppers of Winston-Salem Forsyth County” on Facebook.