Murder accomplice gets off easy, victims’ relatives say
Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and flanked by his attorney and a sheriff’s deputy, Matthew Bradley Powell turned and apologized to the families sitting just feet away for having set fire to a car containing two bodies in an attempt to destroy the evidence that the two had been killed.
The words rang hollow to the families, who sobbed as Powell spoke.
“I didn’t expect that, but I don’t believe it,” said Toni Shatley, mother of Kevin Shatley, one of two victims shot and burned beyond recognition almost three years ago.
Powell, as part of a plea deal, was convicted Monday on two counts of accessory after the fact of first-degree murder in the June 4, 2010, deaths of of Kevin Shatley, 25, and Harlie Brook Carter, 19. Powell could have been sentenced to as much as 38 years in prison. The terms of his plea deal called for two consecutive terms totalling a maximum of 15 years in prison and a minimum of 11 years two months. With 35 months already behind bars since his arrest, he has slightly more than eight years before he could become eligible for release.
Toni Shatley didn't like the deal.
“Please, judge, give him the maximum,” Shatley told Judge Robert Ervin before he sentenced Powell. “It’s scary to think he’ll be free one day to do it again.”
Carter and Shatley were riding in her 1991 Mustang on the night of June 4 to go find Justin Ray Hester, 26, who owed Carter $2,000. Instead of paying Carter, Hester shot them both with a gun that belonged to Powell.
“She was determined to get her money back,” said Pam Brown, Shatley’s aunt. “She called Kevin crying and told him she might wreck and wanted Kevin to go with her.”
Hester was convicted Feb. 11 of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without parole.
Investigators say that after killing the two, Hester went to get Powell and Dylan Shane Teeters of Oak Hill School Road to help get rid of the bodies. Investigators say Teeters, then 19, and Powell drove the Mustang with the bodies inside to a site off Power House Road in Rhodhiss and tried to roll the car into the lake but couldn't, so they instead went to Northside Superette in Granite Falls, purchased a can of gas, returned to the Mustang and set the car on fire.
The ignition of the gasoline and fumes reportedly created a fireball that blew Teeters out of his sandals and ball cap, which were later found near the burned-out Mustang, and left Teeters with burns.
The Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office received a call at 2:30 p.m. after a group of young people on their way to swim near the Rhodhiss Dam found a burned-out vehicle found in a remote, overgrown, muddy area. Inside investigators found the burned remains of two human bodies, and they recovered a West Caldwell High School class ring with the name “Kevin” inscribed on it.
Powell’s appointed attorney, T.J. Rohr, admitted in court Monday that Powell and Hester exchanged text messages on how to dispose of the bodies. He also admitted the gun was Powell’s. But he said Powell was asleep when the murders took place and didn’t know Hester had gotten his gun. Rohr also said that Hester had minimized Powell’s involvement, saying Hester himself threw burning clothing into the car.
The murders rocked residents from the southern end of Caldwell County.
Carter's grandfather, Floyd Carter, who raised her, said after the court hearing that Carter didn’t deserve to die.
“I took care of her all my life, she was a good kid,” he said. “She just got in with the wrong people.”
Shatley left a 7-year-old daughter behind, and Carter a 5-year old daughter.
Teeters, who is also charged with two counts of accessory after the fact of first-degree murder, has a court hearing scheduled for July 29.