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Prosecutors can seek death penalty against Kernersville man charged with killing girlfriend.

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Forsyth Superior Court Judge Todd Burke ruled on Wednesday that prosecutors can ask for the death penalty in the case of a Kernersville man charged with killing his girlfriend in 2020 after initially claiming she committed suicide.

Michael Anthony McBride, 61, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend Tammy Denise Jester on Nov. 10, 2020, at the home the couple shared on Piney Grove Road in Kernersville.

McBride also has a pending charge of possession of a firearm by a felon, but it was a conviction of McBride on a second-degree murder charge in 1987 that the judge cited in granting capital case status to the current murder charge against McBride.

That 1987 conviction was the only aggravating factor cited by Assistant District Attorney Jane Garrity in asking for the capital case designation.

McBride sat quietly beside Nils Gerber, one of his attorneys, in front of Burke during the 2 p.m. hearing, which was brief.

Gerber argued that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, and that the gap has been too long between the 1987 conviction and the crime for which McBride is now charged.

Burke heard the argument but ruled in favor of the prosecution.

No new details emerged on Wednesday about the death of Jester, but authorities had previously said that McBride told them in 2020 that Jester made a sandwich, sat down on the sofa and shot herself with a .22-caliber revolver.

The autopsy report said Jester had bruises on her face, arms and legs, and that McBride and Jester had been arguing about Jester’s decision not to marry him. An investigative report found that the couple had been arguing for several days and had been drinking alcoholic beverages when Jester’s death occurred.

Authorities said Jester’s family members told them that the woman had not shown any signs of being suicidal and had no history of suicide attempts. The autopsy report also said Jester had firearms registered in her name because McBride couldn’t legally keep them, but that Jester didn’t know how to use firearms.

Meanwhile, McBride’s 1987 conviction came after the shooting death of William Dwight McCormick, a resident of Ararat, Va., who was shot in the upper chest with a shotgun on Aug. 16, 1986, at a Forsyth County mobile home park. McCormick died at what is now Forsyth Medical Center.

McBride was convicted of second-degree murder on Jan. 15, 1987, and faced a maximum prison term of almost 13 years, according to records with the N.C. Department of Public Safety. He was released from prison on Aug. 19, 1991, after serving about four and a half years in prison.

In addition to Gerber, McBride’s legal team includes John Barrow, Stephen Ball and Eddie Shifflette III.

McBride is being held with no bond allowed in the Forsyth County Jail.

336-727-7369

@wyoungWSJ

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