Suspect pleads guilty to murder in 2017 death of Onslow County deputy

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A suspect has pled guilty to murder and robbery charges in the fatal shooting of an Onslow County Sheriff’s deputy in Jacksonville in 2017.

Thursday in Onslow County Superior Court, William “Will” James Welch Jr. pled guilty to a charge of Second Degree Murder and a charge of Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon.

Investigators say, on July 6, 2017, Welch Jr. shot William Joseph Clifton, an Onslow County Sheriff’s deputy, at Woodlands Park in Jacksonville, near the JASA Soccer Fields.

Welch told detectives he saw Clifton at the park, hugging and kissing Caitlyn Ridgeway, who was in a relationship with Clifton.

Welch attacked Clifton and took his gun, a Glock 21 .45 Caliber Pistol ACP.

Welch said he turned Clifton over, took his wallet, and proceeded to strike the victim with the gun.

An autopsy later determined Clifton had been shot five times and that he was fatally wounded by a gunshot that entered the left side of his body, went through his heart, and severed his aorta.

That projectile was recovered and was consistent with a round from a Glock 21 .45 Caliber Pistol ACP.

Judgment and sentencing for Welch has been continued until the disposition of the case involving any co-defendant, and Welch remains in custody.

Welch’s co-conspirator, Caitlyn Ridgeway, was also charged with murder in this case.

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