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Convicted killer gets life with parole in 2010 Bath murder - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Convicted killer gets life with parole in 2010 Bath murder

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53-year-old Len Willson III, a wheel-chair-bound paraplegic, was killed on Oct. 5th, 2010. 53-year-old Len Willson III, a wheel-chair-bound paraplegic, was killed on Oct. 5th, 2010.
53-year-old Len Willson III, a wheel-chair-bound paraplegic, was killed on Oct. 5th, 2010. 53-year-old Len Willson III, a wheel-chair-bound paraplegic, was killed on Oct. 5th, 2010.
WASHINGTON, N.C. -

A teenager who murdered a paraplegic man with a pitchfork and a shovel will spend the rest of his life in prison, but have the chance for parole.

It was an emotional day in the courtroom during the mini-trial as family members for the victim and defendants testified.

It was three years ago when Len Willson, a wheel-chair bound paraplegic, was murdered in his own home during a robbery.

Domonic Farrow unknowingly waited in the getaway car while his two friends broke into Willson's home.

Martel Weston robbed him, while 16-year-old Arturo Lopez-Perez beat Willson to death with a pitchfork and shovel, then tried to set his house on fire.

All three pleaded guilty to their involvement in the crime, but before the judge sentenced them, Willson's family had a chance to speak directly to the men.

His sister was shaking as she glanced at Lopez-Perez and told the judge, "Please don't let this evil out of prison…ever."

The judge sentenced Lopez-Perez to life in prison with the chance for parole. Breaking down the charges, he was sentenced to 64-86 months for arson, burglarly/larceny, and robbery with dangerous weapon. Afterwards, he will then start his life sentence, which is a minimum of 25 years.

Martel Weston was sentenced to 73-97 months for burglary, 73-97 months for robbery, and 180-225 months for 2nd degree murder. He has to serve each sentence individually, meaning he's facing up to 34 years behind bars.

Domonic Farrow was sentenced to 50-69 months, up to 6 years in prison.

Stay with 9 On Your Side for the latest details on this developing story.

--- Original Story ---

For three years a quaint home at 115 South Main St. in historic Bath has sat empty. It's an eerie reminder of a gruesome murder that rocked a small coastal town.

"I cannot find anyone who even recalled a murder taking place in Bath for generations," said Bubs Carson, the town administrator who has lived there for more than 50 years. "And to have something like this happen in the town, it shocked our community."

It was the night of Oct. 5th, 2010, when Len Willson III, a 53-year-old wheel-chair-bound paraplegic, was home alone.

Domonic Farrow, 23, waited in a getaway car a block away as his two friends broke into Willson's house. Martel Weston, 22, robbed him as Arturo Lopez-Perez, just 16 years old, beat Willson to death with a pitchfork and shovel, then tried to set his home on fire.

"This, in my 23 years, is the most brutal beating that I have ever seen," said District Attorney Seth Edwards.

Edwards says Willson was active in the community and mentored the young people in town.  

"[Willson] was the type of man to lend a helping hand to anyone, including Mr. Lopez-Perez, who is the defendant in this case," Edwards said. "He served almost as a mentor to him and was trying to teach him a second language, trying to encourage him to depart from his criminal ways and make something of his life. Really, he was trying to help him and then it all came back and backfired on him."

All three men were indicted on first-degree murder charges. But Weston and Farrow agreed to testify against Lopez-Perez and pleaded guilty to lesser charges last year. Lopez-Perez pleaded guilty to murder and other charges in February. On Tuesday, a judge will finally sentence them.

So, what's taken so long to close this case?

Edwards said a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling led to a change in state law. It prohibited an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole for people such as Lopez-Perez who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime – calling it "cruel and unusual punishment" and a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

"It sort of has been in limbo and the state, as well as the defense, was sort of waiting for the dust to settle from a legal standpoint and we feel like we're ready to go forward," Edwards said.

Lopez-Perez could spend life in prison without parole or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years. 

Whatever the outcome, Carson said, "I think Bath is a resilient people. It's a small community that tries to look out for one another. Will we always miss Len Willson? Absolutely. Will we rebound and keep going? Absolutely."   

Willson's family is expected to be at the sentencing Tuesday.

Stick with 9 On Your Side as we bring you the latest details from the courtroom.

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