LUMBERTON — Charges have been dropped against a 28-year-old man accused in a 2011 Fairmont murder after his lawyers argued there was no evidence against him besides the testimony of his co-defendant.
The case against Taurus Locklear was dismissed in Robeson County Superior Court on Aug. 25. He had been charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Brandon Lee Hunt, and with robbing and conspiring to rob Hunt on March 13, 2011, in front of Fairmont’s Market Street Apartments.
“The case against this defendant was circumstantial,” a motion filed by the prosecution to dismiss the charges says. “The state’s evidence was largely based on the combined statements of witnesses.”
Locklear, who is from Rowland, had been in jail since his arrest on March 15, 2011. At the time, Fairmont law enforcement told The Robesonian that witnesses identified Locklear as a suspect, and a “reliable source” gave them information on his whereabouts.
Locklear’s attorneys argued that evidence presented in the case did not implicate Locklear, only his co-defendant, Quintin Taylor, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on June 24, 2014. Along with Locklear and Taylor, Bobby DeShawn Jones was also charged in connection with the shooting death, but those charges were dismissed in September 2011.
According to motions filed by Locklear’s attorneys, Taylor accepted the plea deal in exchange for testimony against Locklear. Taylor did not admit his involvement in Hunt’s death, a motion filed on July 29 says.
Throughout the investigation, Taylor had given “six contradictory, self-serving statements” to law enforcement in which he said had been an “innocent bystander” or actively tried to stop the crime, one motion says. According to the motion, Taylor was the only person charged in the crime who knew Hunt.
Additionally, Locklear’s attorneys said the Fairmont Police Department, which investigated the murder, had lost “significant evidence” related to the case, including recordings of an interview with Taylor and a bullet recovered from Hunt’s body. According to Pickett, it was later discovered that the bullet had not been missing.
The Robeson County District Attorney’s Office was initially pursuing Locklear’s as a capital murder case. During that time, he was represented by Carlton Mansfield and Mark Pickett, an attorney with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. The state announced during a November 2014 hearing that it would no longer pursue the death penalty against Locklear.
Hunt’s body was found behind the apartments after someone stopped an officer and told him that his friend had been shot. Hunt had been shot in the back.