Dispute over woman behind killing, family says
Sammy William Sturgill died early Tuesday at the home of the man who recently married Sturgill's ex-girlfriend while Sturgill was in jail.
Lenoir police haven't released many details about what they think happened, but family members of Bobby Dean Sparks, 62, of 1609 Bradford St., who is charged with first-degree murder in Sturgill's death, say they think the marriage of Sparks to Teresa Lynn Hall, 41, was what brought Sturgill to Sparks' house.
"Sammy wasn't happy about that," said Shelia Hernandez, Sparks' daughter. "Sammy sent messages to people that when he got out of jail he was going to kill people."
Betty Pittman, Sparks' sister, said Sturgill was not wanted on Bradford Street.
"Sammy had been told and told to stay away from there, and he just wouldn't do it," Pittman said. "Teresa told Sammy she wanted nothing to do with him."
Sparks' brother-in-law, George Pittman, who lives about 100 yards down the street, said he was awakened from a deep sleep about midnight by Sparks banging on his door. But before he could get to the door, Sparks had already gone across the street to the home of Pam Mullins.
"He knocked on the door and said, 'Would you please call the police, Pam? Sammy tried to kill me and I killed him,'" Mullins said. "He turned around and walked off the porch. His arms were covered in blood."
Officers arrived at Sparks' house to find Sturgill, 48, of 701 Conley Place stabbed to death inside the house. Sparks is being held at the Caldwell County jail with no bond allowed.
Hernandez said her father, a Vietnam War veteran who carried a knife for protection, wouldn't hurt anyone unless provoked.
"My dad told us if he came on his property he would protect himself," Hernandez said. "Sammy came to my dad's house last night. He don't play."
Sparks' nephew, Junior Pittman, agreed.
"He wouldn't do something like this unless he had to," he said. "Something had to be going on. He's not violent. He had no guns; he carried that knife for protection."
Sturgill lived in a ramshackle house on the corner of Conley Place and Main Street, about a mile from Bradford Street. Those who knew the two said Sturgill and Sparks were not necessarily friends but more like drinking buddies. Both men were known to drink.
But when Sturgill was drunk, which was often, bad things often happened. Perhaps the worst was on Feb. 3, 1987, when Sturgill while drunk fought with Walter Blevins, 68, and left him badly beaten and stabbed near the intersection of Creekway Drive and North Main Street. Blevins died two days later, and Sturgill was convicted in November 1987 on a charge of second-degree murder.
Since his release from prison in mid-2000, Sturgill frequently was arrested, including numerous times on charges of being intoxicated and disruptive. The drinking often was accompanied by violence, and Sturgill was accused many times of assault.
Sturgill's most recent serious drunken run-in with the law happened March 9, when next-door neighbor Charles Davidson came over to Sturgill's house to drink.
"I brought the liquor, and we started to drink," Davidson said. But things went sour suddenly and without warning, said Davidson, who is black. "Sammy started saying a lot of racial stuff to me. He threw the liquor down and started stabbing me."
Davidson said he lost an eye, and both lungs were punctured during the attack.
Sturgill was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. His bond was set at $100,000. Sturgill might still have been in jail Tuesday except that rather than go through a probable cause hearing in his case, the longer of the ways to get a case to Caldwell Superior Court, prosecutors chose to seek a grand jury indictment, so Sturgill was released from jail. The case had not yet gone to a grand jury before Tuesday.
Davidson said that after he was released from the hospital, Sturgill tried to confront him. "He got out of the car and said he wanted to talk to me," Davidson said. "I told him, 'Next time you come up behind me and call my name, I'm going to shoot you.'"
Davidson said he still is friends with members of Sturgill's family, but he thinks Sturgill got what he deserved.
"Do I have pity for him? No," Davidson said. "That SOB is exactly where he needs to be, deader than hell.
"It's over. I don't have to worry about him sneaking up on me and stabbing me anymore."
Sparks has previously has been convicted of first-degree kidnapping, driving while impaired and a prison escape. On Tuesday, Morganton attorney Doug Hall was appointed as his defense attorney. Sparks is tentatively scheduled for a court hearing July 15.