Franklin man’s murderer gets life in prison

Published 9:38 am Friday, July 9, 2010

COURTLAND—A North Carolina man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the January 2009 murder of a Franklin man and the attempted murder of a police officer.

Judge E. Preston Grissom on Thursday upheld a jury recommendation that 40-year-old Rockne Butler of Pantego serve a sentence of life in prison plus 58 years. Butler and Dennis Leon Blount were charged in connection with the murder of 26-year-old Brad “Pug” Harris at Harris’ home on South High Street in Franklin.

On the day of the murder, a Franklin police officer tried to pull the suspects’ vehicle over, but the two led police on a high-speed chase, and Butler fired shots at a pursuing officer.

“This sort of behavior is of the most outrageous kind,” said Southampton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke.

It was conceded during the trial that Butler fired the shot that killed Harris. However, Butler has continually denied shooting at police.

“I take responsibility for what I did do, but I didn’t shoot at the officer,” he said before sentencing.

A jury convicted Butler of first-degree murder, attempted capital murder, abduction and other gun-related charges after a four-day trial in May.

“The jury made it clear that these kinds of acts should not be tolerated,” Grissom said.

Blount, Butler’s co-defendant, pleaded guilty to several charges related to the crime, including second-degree murder, abduction and felony elude, in June. He has not been sentenced.