Thursday, August 16

Sheriff Says Michelle Young Case Ongoing

Nine months after Michelle Young was found murdered in her Raleigh home, Sheriff Donnie Harrison said he has no suspects but the case is ongoing. Young's husband, Jason Young, is also still not cooperating with investigators.

More here:


This is my first published freelance story. Critiques are always welcome, as well as any information about the case. :)

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Wednesday, August 15

The Worst Kind of Justice

While waiting for information pertaining to a Raleigh murder case, I began wondering how many unsolved murders there actually are in Raleigh. Quite a few at the moment, including two pregnant women, Michelle Young and Jenna Nielsen. But I came across an article in the Oct. 2004 issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin that immediately drew me in.


In 2002, Stephanie Renee Bennett was a brown-haired, brown-eyed 23-year-old. She was bright, happy. Her friends said she had the best personality, that she hated exercise and loved dogs, and was about to begin a new adventure with college sweetheart Walter Robinson. Walter said he met her at a sorority party during her freshman year at Roanoke College.

"She was beautiful," he said. "I was speechless."

After earning her business degree, Stephanie announced her desire for independence, and moved into a Raleigh apartment with friends Deanna Powell and Emily Metro in July 2001. The girls initially wanted an apartment on the second floor, but managers said it wasn't available; they instead took a three-bedroom on the first floor.

Stephanie began processing grant applications for an IBM contractor, and enjoyed shopping and playing board games with her roommates every night. She visited Walter in Greenville, SC every weekend.

By April 2002, she had made the decision to move to Greenville.


It was the night of May 20 that would forever haunt Stephanie's family and friends.

She was home alone, her roommates in Virginia. She had made broccoli for dinner and had spoken with Emily, Deanna and Walter by phone.

Her body would be found in her bedroom the next day.

Police quickly determined this was a rape-murder case. The killer apparently got into the apartment by removing a screen to an unlocked window, waited, and then jumped her. He bound her wrists and ankles, most probably with handcuffs, and gagged her. He wrapped a rope or wire around her throat, twisted it from behind and strangled her.

Stephanie had been sexually assaulted orally, anally and vaginally.

There was little disturbance within the apartment, and no signs of a struggle. Some pictures and stuffed animals seemed to have been moved deliberately. And a cordless phone was disconnected and placed into the bedroom closet. The killer left with $8 and her stereo.

Several weeks before Stephanie's death, a neighbor reported seeing a man crouching behind bushes and peering through Stephanie's window. A composite sketch of the peeper generated calls but no arrests.

In July 2003, still without suspects, the police released information about evidence left at the crime scene. DNA indicated the killer was white, with 92 percent Indo-European heritage and 8 percent Native American heritage.

In May 2005, police released a description of a person of interest: a thin build with light brown or blond hair. He walked a large dog and was often seen wearing a dark, hooded sweat shirt.

And on Oct. 19, 2005, police got their big break. Drew Edward Planten, 35, was charged with murder.


People who knew Drew, or at least knew of him, described him as a loner. Almost 24 hours after his arrest, he hadn't said a word - he didn't answer questions, he refused to life his head for his police photo and wouldn't speak to his lawyer. He wouldn't even walk into the courtroom. Deputies strapped him to a gurney chair and rolled him into court.

At his first trial, it was revealed that Drew lived in apartments next to Stephanie's apartment at the time of her death. He rarely spoke to neighbors, and took his Rottweiler for walks only at night.

One neighbor, Dana Allen, said in the summer of 2004 she had an unnerving experience with Drew. She was unloading groceries from the back seat of her car, when she turned around to find Drew standing behind her, hand on her car door. He attempted to make conversation, but alarmed Dana when he began asking if she lived with anyone.

"He made me so uncomfortable," she said. "I felt like there was something wrong with him," she said.


I was scrolling through the "News and Observer" archives on the story, starting from the beginning, feeling relieved that Drew was found, and that he would get to suffer for it.

It was a capital trial. If convicted, he would either face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

And then, the headline: Suspect in 2002 killing commits suicide.

Not only will questions never be answered about what really happened, but justice will now never be served. He is dead, which is what I would have advocated, but he's dead on his own terms - he still had control.

He had control when he was unresponsive to guards and lawyers, and he was in control when he killed Stephanie.

I believe that's what rape is about: control. This man, if you can call Drew a man, planned everything. He watched the house, looked through windows. He was out walking his dog at night, maybe to scope things out. He was, by all accounts, a monster, and that is too generous.

Murder is a horrible act. Rape is a horrible act. Both together are horrible beyond words. For that, Drew should have had the one thing he apparently needed taken away from him: control. That failed.

What causes a person to commit these kinds of immoral, selfish, unfathomable acts? In Drew's case, at least, we'll never know.

News and Observer, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

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Sunday, August 12

Man arrested in rapes, robberies heads to court

From June 16-27, Omar Cortez Sharpe, 26, was having the time of his life. And it’s a good thing, because the rest of it will likely be spent behind bars.

On June 28, Sharpe was arrested and charged with one count of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of first-degree rape, three counts of second-degree kidnapping, four counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon and two counts of robbery.

It all began on June 16, when Sharpe allegedly kidnapped a Wilmington woman, brought her to Raleigh and raped her in the woods near Bonneville Court.

Within a week, Sharpe was also considered a suspect in a kidnapping of another woman from her apartment on Hylton Drive. He allegedly pushed the woman into her vehicle, took her car keys and drove around for a while before taking her to the Green Road Park and raping her. The woman escaped and managed to flag down a police officer.

The following Monday, June 25, a woman was abducted from a Wal-Mart parking lot. Sharpe, armed with a gun, forced her to make two withdrawals from and ATM before releasing her.

Sharpe is also accused of hiding inside a sport utility vehicle while a woman and her five-year-old daughter were eating at Pizza Hut at the Tower Shopping Center. When they returned, Sharpe, again armed with a gun, forced her to make two bank withdrawals before letting her and her child go.

He was arrested at Tower Chopping Center one day later, winking and waving for television cameras, and is being held in Wake County Jail on $5.8 million bond. He is also facing rape and robbery charges in Wilmington.

According to his arrest record, he has previous convictions beginning in 1998: two for assaulting females, one for assault with a deadly weapon and one for larceny.

Sharpe has a court date tomorrow morning to address 15 charges. It’ll be in room 3A, if anyone’s interested, which is on the second floor to the right of the elevator. Here’s to hoping he gets what he deserves.

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Saturday, August 11

CMS teacher arrested on child sex charges

While this crime did not occur in Raleigh, it hit close to home and I felt obligated to write about it.

Jerry Wayne Linton, 58, was a US History teacher at my high school, David W. Butler High School. There were lots of rumors about him - that he fought in a war, that he poured whiskey (or vodka, depending on who's telling the story) into the coffee he drank all day, and that he was a sexist, once making a remark that a girl can't possibly have the highest average in the class.

I don't know if any of these are credible. But I do know that Mr. Linton was arrested this week for three counts each of taking indecent liberties with a child, first-degree rape of a child under 13 and first-degree sex offense on a child under 13.

According to reports, he forced two boys and a girl to perform sex games, then forced the girl to give him oral sex. Two of the children involved are apparently relatives of Mr. Linton. He was being held on $375,000 bail.

He resigned from his teaching position at the high school in June when police started investigating. Rumor is he walked into the building (free of students, as it was summer) to resign with a young girl with him. Another rumor is he and his wife were foster parents.

Rumors aside, it's disheartening to know that someone I saw nearly every day for several years could do something so horrible. The same man who would nod at my geeky wave in the mornings has caused irreparable harm to three children, not to mention the rest of his family and the childrens' families.

Having written before about sex crimes, it is my belief that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated. It takes a significant lack of morals to do something like this to begin with, but studies have shown sex offenders have a higher recidivism rate than all but one other group of criminals - drug users. I also believe sentences for sex offenders are much too generous. A three-time offender can still be punished with only parole.

In this case, I feel no different. Disbelief was my first reaction, but has since been replaced by a complete lack of respect and a small bit of hatred. We'll see what he is served with. Hopefully the justice system won't fail yet again...

Inmate Information;

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Thursday, August 9

Man sought in Cary shooting, robbery

In mid-June, a 51-year-old woman was making a deposit at a Bank of America ATM in Cary. It was 12:30 p.m., and she was with several co-workers. While making her deposit, a man ran up behind her, robbed her at gunpoint and shot her, fleeing to a getaway car at Cary Towne Center across the street.

The woman, who has not been identified, called her brother while waiting for paramedics.

"[My sister] heard the pop and saw the fire but didn’t realize she’d been shot until she looked at her yellow pants and they were red," said her brother, James Pinnix. The victim has undergone surgery and is doing well.

Officials have made two arrests, but are seeking help from the public to capture the suspected shooter in the robbery.

Phillip Thomas "Scoob" Williams, 34, is wanted for attempted murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Williams has an address registered in both Greensboro and Camden, NJ.

Police began looking for Williams after arresting Terrance Adam Lyles, 31, and Travis Monique Price, 24, both from Raleigh. Lyles was arrested for robbery with a dangerous weapon, and Price for accessory after the fact to robbery with a dangerous weapon. The two were arrested in Philadelphia, but were placed in the Wake County Public Safety Center on $250,000 bond each.

If Williams is convicted on all charges, he could face life in prison. Lyles could face 183 months in prison, and Price 49 months.

Crime Stoppers pays up to $2,500 for the arrest or indictment of those responsible for committing certain types of crimes. If you have information, contact Crime Stoppers at 226-CRIM(E) or contact Captain Dave Wulff at 919-469-4017.

You may also visit All calls will be kept confidential at the caller's request.


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