Man sentenced in beating death
A Hickory man pleaded guilty Wednesday in the 2011 beating death of a Lenoir man.
Terry LaTod Simpson, 35, of Liberty Church Road originally was charged with first-degree murder but accepted a deal in which he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 to 20 years in prison. The maximum sentence for second-degree murder would have been 40 years in prison.
On the evening of July 9, 2011, Simpson was on Dulatown Road outside of Lenoir, where investigators say he had lived most of his life and had many friends. At the same time, Alvin Louis Dula Jr., 44, of Staircase Road in Lenoir was riding a four-wheel ATV up and down the road repeatedly.
A witness, Ronnie Perkins, told investigators that Simpson walked up to Dula and told him to quit driving up and down the road, and Dula replied that he wasn't hurting anyone, Assistant District Attorney David Swanson said. Simpson then hit Dula repeatedly, dragged Dula off the four-wheeler and stomped on him, then Simpson took off on the four-wheeler, Swanson said.
When Caldwell County sheriff's deputies arrived at 1648 Dulatown Road, they found Dula dead, face-down in a pool of blood.
Simpson turned himself in the following day.
An autopsy showed that the fatal blow was when Simpson stomped on the back of Dula's neck, damaging his brain stem.
Before sentencing, Dula's uncle, Elmer, addressed the court.
"This is a wrongful death," Elmer Dula said. "Simpson just didn't like him. Alvin didn't have a chance to defend himself. I pray that justice will be served."
Elmer Dula also read a letter from the a sister that stated in part, "He never bothered a soul. He has five children left behind -- all under 18 -- who now have no father."
Simpson also addressed the court.
"I want to apologize to the family of Mr. Dula," he said as he stood at the defense table. "I'm sorry for what took place that day. My intent was for that to never happen. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I'm truly sorry."
Before he was led out of the courtroom, he blew a kiss to his family and mouthed the words "I love you."