ENFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) — A man received four life sentences Wednesday afternoon in connection with quadruple murders in 2017, and more time with connection to another murder in 2018.
James Edward Powell was charged with four counts of first-degree murder after the August 2017 murders of James and Janice Harris and James and Peggy Whitley of the Glenview community.
He was also charged with second-degree murder after the January 2018 death of Travis Johnson of Deer Run Drive in Roanoke Rapids.
The District Attorney’s Office and the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office called the crimes violent and senseless.
“The horror that these three families have had to endure is unimaginable,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a release.
Powell took an Alford plea in court on Wednesday ahead of his sentencing.
An Alford plea, also known as a “best-interests plea,” is an admission of guilt towards charges in criminal court, while also expressing innocence toward the same charges.
In doing so, the release said all pending matters regarding the five murders have been resolved.
Halifax County deputies said the resolution in court, and the evidence in the two cases, supports Powell’s involvement in the crimes.
They said there is no other evidence in the possession of the District Attorney’s Office or the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office that indicates otherwise, or connects anyone else to the crimes.
The reassurance comes after charges were dropped for three out of the four original suspects in the 2017 quadruple murder back in February of 2022.
If additional information presents itself, the sheriff’s office said they will investigate it thoroughly.
At about 12:50 p.m. Wednesday, deputies said Superior Court Judge Beecher R. Gray handed down the four first-degree murder convictions, which included four consecutive life sentences for the 2017 deaths of James and Janice Harris and James and Peggy Whitley.
The judge also added another 317-393 months for the 2018 second-degree murder of Travis Johnson.
The sheriff’s office said the convictions ensure that James Powell will be incarcerated in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections for the rest of his life.
“The Halifax County Sheriff’s Office prays that today’s court action brings about some semblance of closure for these three families,” said Halifax County Sheriff Davis. “They have had to endure many years of pain and suffering and we only hope that they find some comfort in Powell’s plea.”