Hearing venue in plot to kill deputy moving to Vance

Oct. 14, 2013 @ 09:09 PM

WARRENTON — Jeremiah Stephen Royster’s bond hearing was delayed in Warren County Monday and rescheduled for Wednesday in Vance County.

Royster appeared before Superior Court Judge George Collins Jr. Royster is charged with felony conspiracy to commit the murder of Sgt. Terry Williams, a detective in the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

Edwin Wilson is a co-defendant, charged with soliciting Royster to commit first-degree murder. Wilson was expected in court Monday as well but was not brought in.

Collins will conduct Royster’s bond hearing in Vance County Superior Court on Wednesday, and Wilson was given a Dec. 2 court date in Warren County. Future trials and hearings for Royster will return to Warren County according to William Williamson, the assistant district attorney present on Monday.

Williamson recused himself from the proceedings due to having previously served as Royster’s defense attorney.

Both Wilson and Royster remain jailed on $1 million bond each. Royster is being held in a Raleigh state facility for protective reasons, according to an official with the State Bureau of Investigation who was in court.

Collins asked the agent, who did not identify himself, if Royster could be kept in Vance County Jail to ensure his availability on Wednesday. The agent said while it was not possible to release Royster from the custody of the Raleigh jail, he would be brought in a timely manner to Vance County on Wednesday.

Williamson said his friendly terms with the defendant is inappropriate for a member of the district attorney’s staff overseeing the prosecution of the case.

“I can’t do anything in the Royster case,” Williamson said. “He waves at me and I wave at him, so I have to recuse myself from this case.”

Mani Dexter of Chapel Hill is Royster’s attorney, his third appointed in the case. Warren County-based Nick Bagshawe and Granville County-based Mike Burnette were the first two.

Royster, in correspondence meant for the court to consider dismissal of charges, acknowledged misgivings about being represented by an attorney with a regular practice in Warren County. He wrote he could not trust any court appointed attorney in Warren County because of probable ties to Williams.

Royster, of 7988 U.S. 39 North, also complained of being assaulted while “handcuffed and defenseless” in the custody of Warren County deputies. He said Williams was present during a rough session of interrogation shortly after his arrest.

According to Royster, his interrogators became agitated at seeing a photo from a newspaper article found folded in his wallet.

“Detective Williams also appeared to be reaching for his gun in order to shoot me with it,” Royster wrote in a narrative included in case files.

Royster also noted he was indicted by a Warren County grand jury last month instead of being afforded the benefit of a probable cause hearing in open court at the district level.

Royster had been convicted of a 1991 murder. The sentence was altered from life terms to time served in October 2011 so he could be released, according to state prison records.

According to court records, Wilson, of 155 Linwood Kearney Road in Warrenton, had been represented by Allen Gardner Jr., Michael Rogers and was listed on Monday with Elliott Abrams.

Wilson is also charged with eight felonies in three heroin trafficking cases that are not directly related to the conspiracy case. His bond in those cases is a total of $120,000.

Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams, no relation to Terry Williams, said a tip led law enforcement agencies to identify and locate Royster.


Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.