Bladen County Murders – Joseph Sledge’s Innocence is at Stake
Joseph Sledge has been serving half his life in prison for the two Bladen County murders. His case has captured the attention of Investigative Reporter Mandy Locke. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission has begun to present his case before a panel of three judges for exoneration. It was only recently that Sledge was released from prison. Continue reading to learn more about the case. – What Does Joseph Sledge’s DNA evidence mean for the Case?
– David Earl Wilkins is wanted in the death of Donald Jackson. He was arrested after the case went public. Detectives worked with Cumberland County and Robeson County Sheriff’s Offices and connected Wilkins to a shooting in Tarheel. Jackson, 63, died from gunshot wounds and police believe Wilkins was involved in the case. – What is the Connection Between These Two Cases?
– What is Donnie Sledge and John Sledge’s relationship? Sledge’s previous relationship with John Sledge made it difficult for authorities to find him. Josephine Davis, Sledge’s girlfriend was the mother of a young girl. She was brutally murdered. Herman Baker testified that Sledge said he had broken one woman’s jaw and sprinkled black pepper on her house to repel evil spirits.
A task force of local officials was formed to investigate the opioid epidemic in Bladen County. This group includes county commissioners, county manager Greg Martin, sheriff Jim McVicker, narcotics officer Richard Allen, Good News Baptist Church pastor Larry Hayes, Bladen Baptist association missionary David Foster, and Assistant District Attorney Quenti McGe. Bladen Community College, Eastpointe and Bladen County Schools are also members of this task force.
Sledge’s innocence is at risk. Sledge’s innocence is at stake. His DNA tests showed that Sledge’s hair was not the victim’s. A cigarette butt discovered at the crime scene was also linked to a different man. DNA testing revealed that Sledge wasn’t the murderer of the women. The evidence of the murders is also being examined. The case is far from closed and may not be resolved soon.
In 1952, the case was brought to trial at Bladen County’s Superior Court. The Grand Jury returned a true bill of indictment and the defendant was unable to afford his own counsel. The Honorable Chester R. Morris appointed Aaron Goldberg and William K. Rhodes, Jr. as defense counsel. Both lawyers had a wealth of experience handling criminal cases. Ultimately, the trial concluded that the defendant was sane and could plead guilty to the indictment.
After being convicted in the Bladen County murders, the defendant appealed to Supreme Court. He did not plead guilty, and was found guilty. The State Bureau of Investigation used photographs in the county court case against Sawyer. The photos showed both sides of the crime scene and the two victims in their homes. The State Bureau of Investigation also had an Agent interview the suspect in the murder. The photographs also show a police officer who questioned Sawyer and his family members.