YADKINVILLE — Nearly 18 years ago the murder of Jonesville police sergeant Greg Martin shocked the entire community and left behind a widow and two small children. On Monday what District Attorney Tom Horner called a “saga” finally came to it’s legal close with the sentencing of two suspects in the case, Brian Eugene Whittaker and Marc Peterson Oldroyd.
Martin was found shot to death on the side of I-77 just past the Jonesville exit in the early morning hours of Oct. 5, 1996 after reporting to fellow law enforcement member that he was stopping a suspicious vehicle and was in need of assistance.
Whittaker and Oldroyd both pleaded guilty to second degree murder and additional charges related to the robbery attempt that proceeded Martin’s murder. Scott Vincent Sica, the primary suspect in Martin’s murder, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in March when he entered a guilty plea as part of a deal that removed the possibility of the death penalty.
During the proceedings on Monday, Jonesville Detective Ron Perry, a former special agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, testified about the 16-year long investigation that concluded with the arrest of the three suspects, Sica, Oldroyd and Whittaker in 2012.
Perry’s testimony detailed the story of three Florida men who robbed a bank and a Home Depot in Florida and then set out across the country, quickly running through their stolen cash by purchasing dirt bikes and a utility trailer. When the money ran out, the three men headed to North Carolina where a family member of Oldroyd’s, who worked at Belmont Abby College, offered them a free place to stay. Still low on funds, another robbery was planned and that was what brought the trio to Jonesville on Oct. 5 and ended with the murder of Sgt. Martin.
Perry shared previous statements from Whittaker who claimed that Sica shot Martin multiple times as he was searching their vehicle following a botched robbery attempt at the Huddle House in Jonesville. According to the autopsy report, Martin was shot six times in the head at close range.
Following Perry’s testimony, lawyers for both Whittaker and Oldroyd spoke briefly about the terrible nature of their client’s crimes but said that they had since married and become productive citizens. Whittaker’s wife and father were present in the courtroom and Oldroyd’s wife and mother.
Whittaker was sentenced to 14 to 17 years in prison and Oldroyd to 10 to 12 years.
Whittaker gave a brief and tearful statement to the court saying he had long given thought to what he would say about the events of Oct. 5, 1996.
“It’s a small word,” he said, “But the only thing I’ve been able to think of to say is I hope this brings the [Martin] family closure and I’m sorry.”
In a statement read by his lawyer, Oldroyd said he wanted to express his “deep and sincere regret” over his actions and involvement that lead to Martin’s death. He also said he was afraid for his life and that of his family and that is what kept him from coming forward for 16 years.
Horner expressed his thanks to the many law enforcement agents from multiple agencies that helped lay the case to rest through their hard work and determination. He also said he had often been questioned as to why he accepted a plea deal on the case and said that he felt putting the family through a trial would have been almost as devastating as the loss of Martin.
Horner also said that while he did believe that Whittaker and Oldroyd were sincere in their remorse over their actions, he condemned them for even taking part in the plan to arm themselves and commit robbery.
“They might be sorry now, but for 16 years they never came forward,” Horner said. He referenced the facts that were mentioned in court about both men’s marriages, children and lives they lead following their string of crimes and said that while they had those stories, Martin’s story was cut tragically short at their hands.
He also thanked the Martin family for their support during the many years the case had been open and said while he knew the conclusion of the case would not bring Martin back, he hoped that the finality of the legal side would now allow them to move on with their lives.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.