Whitman convicted of second-degree murder
Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 14, 2013
A Kannapolis man will spend at least 25 years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to stabbing his roommate to death and stuffing the man’s body in the trunk of his own car.
Jasper Joe Whitman, 37, pleaded to second-degree murder in the 2012 death of 52-year-old Davis Gilyard Jr. Whitman also pleaded guilty to assault on a law enforcement official, malicious conduct by a prisoner, injury to real property and possession of a dangerous weapon in prison, charges he received while in the Rowan County Detention Center awaiting trial.
Jasper, who had been charged with first-degree murder, could spend up to 31 years behind bars for the crimes.
During a Friday afternoon hearing, Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook provided an account of the events that unfolded March 27, 2012.
The murder was brought to the attention of investigators after Gilyard was reported missing by roommate Katherine Meranda Sides, who is also the estranged wife of Whitman. Sides told investigators she received a strange text message from Gilyard, Cook said.
Cook said investigators believe the messages actually were sent to Sides from Whitman using Gilyard’s phone. Sides told investigators she and Whitman had a tumultuous relationship that included several domestic disputes. Whitman’s father told investigators his son came to his house with blood on him and spoke of two dead bodies. Investigators later confirmed there was no second body. Whitman told his father he became upset and stabbed someone, Cook told the court.
Whitman was seen on surveillance video at a motel the day Gilyard’s body was discovered. He appeared to be driving the victim’s car.
Officers received a call about a suspicious vehicle left at a Lane Street lot where freight trailers were parked near a wood line. Gilyard was found in the trunk of his Chevrolet Impala.
Whitman was arrested driving north on Interstate 85 the next day. His girlfriend, Misty Dawn Hernandez, was also inside the car. Whitman began seeing Hernandez after he and his wife separated. Hernandez was not charged in the homicide.
Investigators received information that Whitman and Hernandez were at an East Spencer home. Detectives followed the two as they left the home and were stopped near Exit 88 in Davidson County. Whitman was stopped because of a probation violation in an unrelated matter. Authorities noted Whitman had blood on his clothes, Cook said. He was charged with murder later the same day.
At the crime scene, investigators found blood throughout the home, including inside Gilyard’s bedroom and bathroom.
Whitman had contacted Sides and told her he had a “surprise for her.” She asked law enforcement to check the house.
Sides told a Post reporter following the murder she noticed Gilyard was not at the home, but assumed he was at work. Gilyard was reported missing and foul play was suspected when officers went to the home and noted it was “filthy,” Cook said.
The prosecutor said Gilyard was stabbed multiple times in the chest and abdomen. He also had injuries to his head, arms, hand and foot. He also had bruises on his face. The victim also had alcohol in his system.
Sides said Whitman had been “smoking crack.” No clear motive was ever given as to why Whitman stabbed Gilyard.
“He is a volatile person by nurture and nature,” said his attorney Michael Adkins.
Detectives with the Kannapolis Police Department were at Friday’s hearing, but did not testify.
While Whitman was in jail earlier this year awaiting trial for the murder charges, he was charged following three separate incidents, one of which left a deputy with a black eye.
On March 31, a detention center officer was notified Whitman was going to “cut officers.” A search of his pod revealed he’d ripped a piece of metal from the wall above his bunk. On April 3, Whitman threw a cup of urine on two deputies. In that incident he told the deputies he planned to do it every day. A day later, Sgt. Karen Brindle was kicked in the face while she tried to help other officers restrain Whitman. She had a black eye and cuts to her nose and hand.
Adkins, the defense attorney, said Whitman had a “meltdown” while in the jail and his assault on Brindle was not intentional. The attorney said his client’s history of self-medication did not help the situation. Adkins said Whitman has made poor choices.
When Whitman arrived home the night of the murder, the locks had been changed, Adkins said. At some point in the night, a confrontation ensued between Whitman and Gilyard. Adkins said his client “just lost control.”
When Whitman “came to himself, he panicked. He had no exit strategy,” Adkins said.
The attorney said he hoped Whitman could get help while in prison to address his post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse issues.
Members of the victim’s family were present but did not speak during the hearing. Members of Whitman’s family were also present.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.