William Dewayne Simmons will go to trial next month for the 2018 murder of an Evergreen man.
Carlos David Alfonso Jr. was found in a ditch along N.C. 410 near the Bladen County line at the height of Hurricane Florence. Simmons was arrested a month later on charges that he killed Alfonso with a shotgun and dumped his body just before the storm.
Defense Attorney Harold “Butch” Pope asked for a continuance in the case Thursday during a break in the first degree murder trial of Tucker Rector. Pope cited Simmons’ lack of a COVID-19 vaccination, as well as Pope’s own schedule. He is set to defend multiple murder defendants between now and the end of the year.
Pope said he is fully vaccinated, but did not know if a booster shot would have time to take effect before the trial.
“I am concerned that I subconsciously wouldn’t be able to be in close quarters with my client,” Pope said.
Simmons has been out on bail in the custody of his grandparents in Evergreen, Pope said. Neither Simmons nor his grandparents have been vaccinated.
District Attorney Jon David said that health concerns can be addressed, and cited State Chief Justice Paul Newby’s orders to get courts moving again.
“The defendant and his family can wear masks in the open court,” David said. “It’s been almost two years that the courts have been shut down to jury trials. Judge Newby said the courts need to be open and functioning. My entire office is working to make that happen.”
“The defendant was 18 years and two months old at the time of the shooting three years ago,” David said. “He can make his own decisions. He does not get a free pass on a murder charge because he hasn’t gotten vaccinated.
“From the state’s perspective, we are ready.”
Columbus County has around 35 murder trials pending. The capital murder trial of James McKamey was in jury selection when the pandemic shut down the court system in 2020. McKamey is charged with stabbing Carol Greer to death in her Whiteville yard in 2016.
David’s office was on an aggressive course to clear out some of the murder trial backlog when the pandemic was declared.
Pope and David disagreed on how long the Simmons trial is expected to last. David said the trial likely would take two weeks, while Pope expects it to take much longer.
Judge Greg Bell complimented David’s office on the speed of the Rector trial, noting that the killing occurred last year, and that jury selection was completed Monday, in one day. The jury could receive the case Friday.
Bell refused the request for a continuance. Simmons will go to trial Oct. 11.