Murder trial set to begin

Published 10:34 am Saturday, May 1, 2010

COURTLAND—One of two North Carolina men accused of killing a Franklin man is set to go on trial in Southampton County Circuit Court next week.

Jury selection for the trial of Rockne Butler, 40, of Pantego, will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday, May 3. If convicted, Butler could receive a sentence of life in prison.

Butler and 30-year-old Dennis Leon Blount of Washington, N.C., are accused of killing Brad Harris, 27, when a single shot was fired into his bedroom from outside his home at 509 S. High St. on the morning of Jan. 23, 2009. He was shot in the torso and died at the scene.

Butler and Blount face charges of first-degree murder, shooting into an occupied dwelling, use of a firearm in the commission of a murder, abduction, use of a firearm in the commission of an abduction, attempted breaking and entering, and use of a firearm in the commission of attempted breaking and entering.

The court has not set a trial date for Blount.

Blount faces additional charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and felony eluding police.

Butler faces additional charges of attempted capital murder and use of a firearm in the commission of attempted capital murder.

The men have been held at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Suffolk without bond since their arrest later on the day of Harris’ shooting, after they led police on a high-speed chase through Franklin and crashed into a home on North High Street.

At the time of their arrest, police said a sport utility vehicle used by Butler and Blount in the high-speed chase was the same SUV seen by authorities earlier that day parked in front of Harris’ home.

Harris, his girlfriend and Harris’ 3-year-old daughter were all in the home at the time of the shooting. During the ensuing high-speed chase, the men fired a gun at police officers. No one was injured by the shots that were fired or the high-speed chase.