Murder defendant out of jail

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 05:42 PM

WARRENTON – A Henderson woman jailed on a Warren County charge of first-degree murder has been hospitalized on life support, according to court records.

A $250,000 bond holding Lenita Siplen Fortson, 38, of 511 Spring Court, was altered on Saturday at an impromptu meeting of attorneys with a judge, allowing a signature to release her “due to a medical condition.”

Court officials confirmed this week that Fortson, charged with the Jan 1 shooting death of her husband Royvitt Lawedy Fortson, 41, at a BP station near Interstate 85, had been released – the $250,000 bond was changed to non-secured, not held through a bond agency or by property or note.

Court records indicate Lenita Fortson is at Wake Med hospital, and her condition is critical enough to be on life support, possibly to the point of being brain dead.

She had been held in a state prison facility because of medical reasons that Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams said his jail was not equipped to handle.

On Tuesday, Williams said he could not comment on particular medical conditions that precipitated the unusual release on an unsecured bond of that amount.

“It is something that the defense lawyer, the district attorney and the judge worked out,” Williams said.

Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood signed for altering the bond order on Saturday, with the cooperation of both Assistant District Attorney William J. Williamson and defense attorney Steven B. DeCillis, according to court records.

DeCillis said on Tuesday that prison authorities released his client from incarceration Saturday night following the bond order change.

“Williamson consented to the bond change,” DeCillis said.

Court records noted that the bond order on Saturday was done “out of session and out of term” and that “due to the defendant’s medical condition, she will not be required to sign any documents to effectuate the unsecured bond.”

DeCillis’ late-Saturday motion stated, “upon information and belief, the defendant is on life support and possibly brain dead.”

DeCillis also noted that the Warren County detective in the case as well as Sheriff Williams agreed with the bond request. Hobgood’s order included a clause for the sheriff’s department to notify WakeMed hospital of the defendant’s release from custody.

In prior court documents, an order for specialized incarceration arrangements signed by Judge John W. Davis on Jan. 16 noted defendant Fortson was diabetic, obese, having hypertension and non-ambulatory “for the most part.”

“It is recommended that for the safety and welfare of the defendant, the defendant be transferred to a facility within the North Carolina Department of Corrections pending further hearings in this matter,” the Davis order stated.

Davis set the $250,000 bond Jan. 16 when he ruled that the case met probable cause for trial in superior court.

The charge at her arrest was felony murder. District Court Judge Carolyn Yancey on Jan. 9 ruled in favor of upgrading the charge to first-degree murder.

“It is the judgement of the court that the state’s motion to amend the charge to first degree murder is hereby allowed,” Yancey ruled.

On Jan. 24, notification came from the capital defender’s office that Henderson attorney Joyce Fischer would be joining the legal defense team for Lenita Fortson while the case is possibly headed toward a death-penalty trial.

In prior comments, District Attorney Sam Currin said that case evidence indicated Lenita Fortson drove Royvitt Fortson to the BP fuel station just off exit 229 of Interstate 85, at about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 1, and that a second person was involved.

Williams said that further arrests are pending investigation in connection to the incident, but a second arrest has not been made.

Royvitt Fortson had been listed with a 115 Freedom Circle address in Norlina.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com