State v. Anthony, No. 183A00.

Docket NºNo. 183A00.
Citation555 S.E.2d 557
Case DateDecember 18, 2001
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

555 S.E.2d 557

STATE of North Carolina
v.
William Todd ANTHONY

No. 183A00.

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

December 18, 2001.


555 S.E.2d 567
Roy Cooper, Attorney General by Robert C. Montgomery, Assistant Attorney General, for the State

Sue A. Berry, Lumberton, for defendant-appellant.

EDMUNDS, Justice.

On 7 July 1997, defendant William Todd Anthony was indicted for first-degree murder of Semantha Belk Anthony1 and for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury on John Edward Belk. Defendant was tried capitally before a jury at the 3 May 1999 Criminal Session of Superior Court, Gaston County. On 27 May 1999, the jury found defendant guilty of first-degree murder on the basis of malice, premeditation, and deliberation, but not on the basis of felony murder. The jury also returned a verdict of guilty of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. Following a capital sentencing proceeding, the jury recommended a sentence of death for the murder. On 3 June 1999, the trial court sentenced defendant to death for the first-degree murder conviction and seventy-three to ninety-seven months' imprisonment for the assault conviction. Defendant appeals his conviction for first-degree murder and his sentence of death to this Court as a matter of right. On 3 August 2000, we allowed defendant's motion to bypass the Court of Appeals as to his appeal of the assault conviction. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that defendant's trial and capital sentencing proceeding were free from prejudicial error and that defendant's sentence of death is not disproportionate.

At defendant's trial, the State presented evidence that defendant and Semantha Belk Anthony were married on 26 October 1985 and that two children were born of the marriage. Defendant and Semantha separated for several months in 1992. During this separation, defendant wrecked Semantha's vehicle with his truck and grabbed her after allegedly seeing her with another man. Defendant was charged with communicating a threat and with assault on a female as a result of this incident, but the charges were subsequently dropped. Defendant and Semantha temporarily reconciled but separated again in March 1997, as detailed below. Semantha told her mother, Martha Belk, that she was leaving defendant because her sons "were being abused" and "she was scared of [defendant]." Similarly, she told her father, John Edward Belk, that she was separating from defendant because "she was afraid he was going to kill her and the boys."

On 15 March 1997, Semantha met with attorney Jay Stroud, who prepared a separation agreement. This agreement, which defendant

555 S.E.2d 568
and Semantha signed on 19 March 1997, gave Semantha primary custody of the children and entitled defendant, in part, to visitation with the children twice a week and on alternate weekends. Thereafter, Semantha and the children left the marital residence. Semantha stayed with her parents briefly, then moved into an apartment. The children slept at the Belks' home

A week after signing the separation agreement, defendant contacted Susan Russell, a legal assistant for attorney Stroud, to complain about Semantha's failure to remove the remainder of her property from the marital residence. Ms. Russell contacted Semantha, who responded that defendant had been harassing her since they signed the separation agreement. She further explained that she had not yet acted because she was afraid of defendant and was trying to find someone to accompany her when she retrieved her property. In fact, on 16 March 1997, the day after Semantha visited attorney Stroud, the Gaston County Police Department had been dispatched to the marital residence in response to a domestic dispute. Defendant told the responding officer that he had a gun but had thrown it in the woods behind the house at Semantha's request.

On 9 April 1997, Semantha filed a "Complaint and Motion for a Domestic Violence Protective Order" against defendant in which she stated, "4-8-97. Has threatened to kill me, constantly follows me at different times, carries a gun. I fear for my life." That same day, a judge signed an "Ex Parte Domestic Violence Protective Order" and set a hearing in the matter for 16 April 1997.

On the morning of Tuesday, 15 April 1997, defendant arrived at the Belks' home to visit his children. Although in the past defendant had been welcome do to so whenever he wanted, Semantha instructed her parents no longer to allow defendant to see the children before school because his visits upset them. However, when Mr. Belk told defendant that he could not see his children, defendant pushed him aside and entered the house. Defendant was crying at the time, and his children became agitated while talking to him. After defendant left, Mr. Belk reported the incident to the police, and J.T. Welch, an officer with the Mount Holly Police Department, responded. He testified that Mr. Belk described the incident to him and stated that defendant had at some point made threats that he would kill the whole family. Mr. Belk appeared troubled and said that he did not know what defendant was capable of doing. He added that he thought his daughter had obtained a restraining order against defendant.

Officer Welch advised Scott Wright, an officer with the Mount Holly Police Department, of the incident and of a possible restraining order against defendant. Officer Wright went to the Belks' home to speak with Semantha, who told him about the incident that morning and added that defendant had been following her and threatening to "blow her f___ing head off." After speaking with Semantha, Officer Wright confirmed that an "Ex Parte Domestic Violence Protection Order" had been issued.

Officer Wright saw Semantha later that day at a hair salon. While speaking with her, she exclaimed, "There he is, there he is," and she and the officer watched as defendant drove slowly past the salon. Afterwards, Officer Wright visited Semantha at her residence, where she told him that defendant was supposed to bring the children to her parents' home later that day. She requested that a police officer come by during that time because she thought there would be trouble and added, "He'll kill me if he gets a chance."

That same day, Semantha also called legal assistant Russell to report that defendant had hired an attorney who was going to attempt to have the 16 April 1997 domestic violence hearing postponed because defendant was scheduled to undergo surgery. During their conversation, Semantha told Ms. Russell that she recently had purchased a gun because she was afraid to stay in her residence without protection and that her children were sleeping at her parents' home because she was fearful something would happen.

Defendant went back to the Belks' home on the afternoon of 15 April 1997, bringing flowers for Semantha and steaks for the Belks as an apology for the encounter that

555 S.E.2d 569
morning. Although defendant left after several minutes, events rapidly took an ominous turn. Defendant's stepfather, Johnny Kendall, testified that he later told Mount Holly Police Officer Barry Colvard that he thought he had talked defendant out of doing something he would regret but that when defendant grabbed several shotgun shells and ran out of the house, Mr. Kendall called 911. He told the operator that defendant had left his home with a gun to shoot Semantha. Randy Carter, a neighbor of the Kendalls, testified that Mrs. Kendall came to his house on 15 April 1997 just prior to the shootings and asked him to calm defendant. Defendant told Mr. Carter that he could not take it anymore and was going to kill Semantha. While Mr. Carter was speaking with defendant, defendant was searching for something in three rooms and the attic of the Kendalls' house. When defendant left, Mr. Carter observed a shotgun in the back of defendant's truck

Approximately one hour after leaving the Belks' home, defendant returned. Semantha, who was there waiting for defendant to drop off the children, ran outside when she heard defendant blow his horn. Mr. Belk, who had seen defendant drive down the street, was outside talking with his neighbor James Fitcher. Several minutes later, Mr. Belk heard someone yell, "Todd's got Sandy, dragging Sandy out front, he's got a gun." Mr. Belk ran inside his home to find something with which to defend himself. When he emerged, he saw that defendant was wielding a shotgun while holding the crouching or kneeling Semantha by her hair. Defendant told Semantha, "Hold still, b___. I'm going to kill you," while she pleaded with defendant to let her go. When Mr. Belk told defendant not to hurt his daughter, defendant became distracted and Semantha was able to break free and run. Defendant chased her and shot her in the back. He then reloaded his shotgun and, as the wounded Semantha lay on the ground begging for her life, flipped her over with his foot; said, "Hold still, b___"; and shot her again. Defendant reloaded; aimed his shotgun at Mr. Belk; said, "You're next, old man"; and shot Mr. Belk in the shoulder. Defendant next aimed at Mrs. Belk, who was standing on her front porch. Although defendant apparently pulled the trigger, his weapon failed to fire. Defendant threw the shotgun in the back of his truck; said, "Now I can go to jail"; then sped away, scattering gravel. Several neighbors, including James Fitcher, Kimberly Fitcher, Brenda Cagle, Bobbie Auten, and Gloria Jenkins, witnessed the shootings and corroborated the testimony of Mr. and Mrs. Belk.

After shooting Semantha and Mr. Belk, defendant drove to his parents' house. Defendant told Mr. Carter that he had shot Semantha and asked Mr. Carter to drive him to the jail. As Mr. Carter was driving, defendant repeatedly stated, "Why did she do this to me? Why? Why? Why?" Mr. Carter saw several patrol vehicles and flagged down Mount Holly Police Officer B.G. Summey....

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113 practice notes
  • State v. Williams, No. 278A99.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • June 28, 2002
    ...596, 607 (2001) (citing State v. Benson, 323 N.C. 318, 322, 372 S.E.2d 517, 519 (1988)); see also State v. Anthony, 354 N.C. 372, 389, 555 S.E.2d 557, 571 (2001), cert. denied, ___, U.S. ___, 122 S.Ct. 2605, ___ L.Ed.2d ___ (2002). Furthermore, where defendant includes plain error as an alt......
  • State v. Fletcher, No. 117A96-2.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 18, 2001
    ...first jury had rejected defendant's original defense and convicted him of the murder, I agree with the majority that the trial court's 555 S.E.2d 557 instruction to the second jury limiting its consideration of the new defense was Even so, I believe the procedural quirks in this case thwart......
  • State v. Kemmerlin, No. 182A01.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 20, 2002
    ...of the individual defendant and the nature of the crime or crimes which [she] has committed.'" State v. Anthony, 354 N.C. 372, 455, 555 S.E.2d 557, 608 (2001) (quoting State v. Pinch, 306 N.C. 1, 292 S.E.2d 203, cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1056, 103 S.Ct. 474, 74 L.Ed.2d 622 (1982)), and overrul......
  • State v. Barden, No. 96A01.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • November 22, 2002
    ...grossly improper that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to intervene ex mero motu.'" State v. Anthony, 354 N.C. 372, 423, 555 S.E.2d 557, 590 (2001) (quoting State v. Mitchell, 353 N.C. 309, 324, 543 S.E.2d 830, 839, cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1000, 122 S.Ct. 475, 151 L.Ed.2d 389......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
113 cases
  • State v. Williams, No. 278A99.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • June 28, 2002
    ...596, 607 (2001) (citing State v. Benson, 323 N.C. 318, 322, 372 S.E.2d 517, 519 (1988)); see also State v. Anthony, 354 N.C. 372, 389, 555 S.E.2d 557, 571 (2001), cert. denied, ___, U.S. ___, 122 S.Ct. 2605, ___ L.Ed.2d ___ (2002). Furthermore, where defendant includes plain error as an alt......
  • State v. Fletcher, No. 117A96-2.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 18, 2001
    ...first jury had rejected defendant's original defense and convicted him of the murder, I agree with the majority that the trial court's 555 S.E.2d 557 instruction to the second jury limiting its consideration of the new defense was Even so, I believe the procedural quirks in this case thwart......
  • State v. Kemmerlin, No. 182A01.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 20, 2002
    ...of the individual defendant and the nature of the crime or crimes which [she] has committed.'" State v. Anthony, 354 N.C. 372, 455, 555 S.E.2d 557, 608 (2001) (quoting State v. Pinch, 306 N.C. 1, 292 S.E.2d 203, cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1056, 103 S.Ct. 474, 74 L.Ed.2d 622 (1982)), and overrul......
  • State v. Barden, No. 96A01.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • November 22, 2002
    ...grossly improper that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to intervene ex mero motu.'" State v. Anthony, 354 N.C. 372, 423, 555 S.E.2d 557, 590 (2001) (quoting State v. Mitchell, 353 N.C. 309, 324, 543 S.E.2d 830, 839, cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1000, 122 S.Ct. 475, 151 L.Ed.2d 389......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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