Fayettevilles Infamous Crimes, Part 2: Local Cases That Have Garnered Worldwide Attention

In the 174 years since Ann K. Simpson was tried and acquitted in the 1849 poisoning death of her husband in Fayetteville, the furor that surrounded Simpson's sensational trial has revisited this city time and again.

From a Special Forces doctor in the 1970s, who to this day denies butchering his wife and two daughters in their Fort Bragg home — to a missing 5-year-old girl whose body was found two days after her mother was arrested for trading the girl to a killer for a drug debt — here are some other infamous Fayetteville crimes that captured international attention.

1970: Jeffrey MacDonald murders on Fort Bragg

The horror that investigators found Feb. 17, 1970, at Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald's Fort Bragg home was unmatched at the nation's most populated Army installation.

MacDonald's two young daughters, Kristen Jean, 2, and Kimberly, 5, were stabbed and bludgeoned to death in their beds at 544 Castle Drive — Kristen Jean's face half resting on the pink baby bottle she nursed herself to sleep with, His pregnant wife, Collette, 26, was bloodied and dead on the floor in her bedroom, the word "pig" scrawled on the headboard. She had nine knife wounds in her neck, seven in her chest and 21 ice pick wounds.

More: Jeffrey MacDonald case intrigues 50 years later

MacDonald, an Army doctor, was suffering from stab wounds to the stomach and chest but survived what he claimed was a home invasion by three men and a woman carrying a candle and murmuring: "Acid is groovy; kill the pigs."

The 26-year-old paratrooper said he'd fallen asleep on the couch, only to be woken by a cry from his wife then knocked unconscious by the band of marauding hippies bent on murder.

When he awoke the final time, his family was dead. MacDonald made his way to the phone to call for help, announcing, "I need military police. I have been stabbed," according to published reports.

At first, authorities hunted for the drugged-out killers described by MacDonald. But as residents in and around Fort Bragg armed themselves against the crazed murderers, investigators turned their attention to the handsome blonde survivor who looked more California surfer than maniacal slayer.

Before long they had all the evidence they thought they would need and on May 1, 1970, the Army had filed murder charges against MacDonald.

More: Jeffrey MacDonald murder case through the years at The Fayetteville Observer

Related: MacDonald innocent in killings, wife says

But five months later, after an evidentiary hearing, those charges were dismissed.

MacDonald, who became a cause celebre, was honorably discharged from the Army and made a much-panned appearance on a nationally televised talk show where he reportedly cracked jokes about the investigation into the slaughter of his family. He practiced medicine in his home state of New York for a year, before getting his license to practice in California. 

Despite an Army jury ruling there was not enough evidence to proceed to trial, Collette MacDonald's mother and stepfather were convinced of Capt. McDonald's guilt and in 1974, a North Carolina grand jury was convinced as well.

On Jan. 25, 1975, MacDonald was arrested in California in the North Carolina killings. Four years of legal wrangling would ensue — and such debates would mark the case up until today.

More: Fort Bragg murders: Photos of the Jeffrey MacDonald case

It would be July 1979 before the case would go to trial and after weeks of testimony, the jury would return three verdicts of guilty of first-degree murder. MacDonald was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.

In the past 42 years, he's filed numerous appeals in a bid to gain his freedom, including his last motion for compassionate release in the wake of the coronavirus. 

That, too, was dismissed.

Now 78 years old, MacDonald is currently serving his sentence in medium-security federal prison in Maryland — coincidentally, in a town called Cumberland.          

1993: Luigi's mass shooting

Shortly before 10 p.m. on Aug. 6. 1993, a drunken Kenneth Junior French — his ire raised at the prospect of gays in the military — inexplicably drove his pickup to Luigi’s Italian Restaurant on McPherson Church Road in Fayetteville. It was a Friday night and even at that late hour, some 30 diners sat inside enjoying their Alfredo.

But that peace would soon be interrupted. The 22-year-old Fort Bragg Army sergeant was armed with at least one shotgun and a .22-caliber rifle, which he used to shoot at cars in the parking lot and then fire shots through each of the windows as he made his way along the perimeter of the packed eatery.

Once inside the kitchen door, he shot a cook who survived. The gunfire sent some diners diving under tables as others tried to flee the building.

French, loaded for bear and with a sack of ammo slung over his shoulder, entered the dining room and was met by owners Pete Parrous, 73, and his wife Ethel, 65.

“Oh, please don’t hurt these nice people!” Pete Parrous pleaded. “Please don’t hurt us.”

But French showed no mercy. He killed the Parrouses, along with Wesley Scott Cover, 26, who died shielding his fiancee, and James F. Kidd, 46, in town from Illinois to visit his soldier son.

French wounded at least seven others and likely would have kept going if an off-duty police officer who was working part-time at the grocery store across the street hadn't run over and shot French through a window of the restaurant, police said.

Sgt. Bill Simon, who was among the swarms of police to converge on the scene, then crawled into the restaurant through the kitchen, climbing over the injured, until he locked eyes with French who lost the draw.

Simons shot French several times 20 minutes after the storm began, putting an end to the deadliest shooting rampage the city had seen.

At trial, which was moved to New Hanover County to avoid defense concerns that pretrial publicity would make it impossible for their client to a fair trial here, French admitted the shooting but said he had no recollection of it. The defense argued for a second-degree murder charge or involuntary manslaughter, saying there was no evidence the rampage was planned.

In the end, however, the jury found French guilty of four counts of murder, eight counts of assault with a  deadly weapon and one count of discharging a firearm into occupied property.

The now 50-year-old French, who's been incarcerated longer than he was alive when he visited terror upon the city, is currently serving a life sentence in the Mountain View Correctional Institution in Mitchell County.

The Parrouses children carried on the legacy created by their parents. The restaurant still operates as Luigi's Italian Chophouse and Bar in the same spot on McPherson Church Road today.

1995: Racist killings by neo-Nazi soldiers

Jackie Burden, 27, and Michael James, 36, were simply walking along a then-unpaved Hall Street near Campbell Avenue on Dec. 7, 1995, when neo-Nazi skinheads shot and killed the couple about midnight in downtown Fayetteville. 

"They weren't hurting anyone, they weren't doing anything wrong or illegal. They were killed simply because they existed," the Raleigh News and Observer quoted prosecutor John Dickson as saying in opening statements at the April 1997 murder trial of former Fort Bragg soldier PFC Malcolm Wright Jr.

Wright's trial came two months after fellow Army paratrooper Pvt. James Norman Burmeister, was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in the killings.

Burmeister's goal, prosecutors said, was to get a skinhead spiderweb tattoo on his elbow, a feat accomplished only by the killing of a Black person. A third soldier, Randy Lee Meadows, who drove the men around as they hunted for victims, testified against his white supremacist comrades.

Meadows told the jury that in the hours before the killings, he and the two others were drinking at his trailer off Ray Road near Spring Lake when Wright showed off a spiderweb tattoo on his elbow and told Burmeister how to earn one.

The trio then had dinner at a restaurant and agreed to drive around and look for Black people to harass. It was during that drive that Burden and James were spotted walking on Hall Street.

Meadows said that as the men left his car, Burmeister remarked, "You never know. Maybe I'll earn my spiderweb tonight." Moments later, seven gunshots rang out.

If it hadn't been for Meadows' apparent morbid curiosity, investigators may never have solved the crime.

When his friends didn't come back to his car, Meadows sauntered up to the police to get a closer look. He first told police he lived in the neighborhood, then said he lost his license and was driving side streets to avoid law enforcement because he'd been drinking, the court record states. When he took officers to his car to prove his point, they spotted German military insignia on jackets left behind by Wright and Burmeister. Shortly thereafter, the court record states, Meadows confessed his involvement and implicated his buddies in the killings.

When the killers were arrested at Meadows' trailer, authorities seized white supremacist pamphlets, Nazi flags and bomb-making books. They also recovered the weapon used in the killings.

In exchange for his cooperation, Meadows was convicted of accessory to assault with a deadly weapon and given credit for time served.

The murders led the secretary of the Army to order an investigation into extremist activities in the ranks. The probe found little evidence of widespread, overt racism, but the Army discharged at least 22 extremists, including Wright and Burmeister.

Burmeister died of a brain tumor at the age of 32 in a prison infirmary in 2007, 10 years into his life sentences.

Wright, now 47, is currently serving his life sentences in protective custody in the Warren Correctional Institution in Warren County.

In an unexpected turn of events, Wright, who now goes by the name Malcolm Azariah, has converted to Judaism — a tidbit revealed in a federal lawsuit he filed in 2010 against the director of prisons claiming he was being denied Kosher food. The lawsuit was dismissed. When Wright appealed, the dismissal was affirmed.

2000: The killing of Capt. Marty Theer

Though they were high school sweethearts in their hometown of Denver, Colorado, Air Force Capt. Marty Theer must not have known the type of woman he married in 1991.

While in the professional world she was a licensed psychologist known as Dr. Michelle Theer, unbeknownst to Marty, she went by another name on internet dating boards where she trolled for extracurricular fun: "Married Brunette."

It was through that internet posting that Michelle had rendezvous with several men, including, Staff Sgt. John Diamond, an Army ranger stationed at Fort Bragg. The two began a steamy affair marked by group-sex trysts. The affair resulted in each leaving their spouses in June 2000 and moving in together.

But within a month, the Theers were in counseling to repair their marriage, and by September, Michelle had moved back to 8620 English Saddle Drive with her husband.

Diamond was still in the picture, however. Just weeks after Michelle appeared to reconcile with Marty, her lover went with her to a job interview she had in the Caribbean. Investigators learned that while she was there, she introduced Diamond as her fiance and told people she could begin working at the medical school in January 2001. During that same visit, Diamond contacted a scuba diving shop about getting work there when he and his "wife" moved there.

On Dec. 16, 2000, as that January deadline drew near, Diamond borrowed a 9 mm handgun from a friend while Michelle played the role of doting wife.

The following day, the seemingly happily married couple attended Michelle's office Christmas dinner in Cary. Crimes scene photos show Michelle was aptly dressed for the occasion in a skirt and Christmas sweater, with fluffy Santa faces and snowflakes.

However, as the couple drove home, prosecutors said, Michelle came up with a ruse to stop at her office at 2500 Raeford Road. While she was inside the building, Diamond shot Marty five times with the borrowed handgun, killing him.

At first, the killer was unknown by law enforcement

But the investigation would soon reveal that hours before the killing, Michelle went into the bathroom at the restaurant and phoned Diamond. Detectives would learn of the affair; the splits and reconciliations; the trip to the Caribbean; that Michelle talked to her boss about Marty's $500,000 life insurance policy through the military.

It would be more than two months before Diamond would be arrested by military investigators in the killing. Michelle was not charged because the military had no authority over civilians.

During an August 2001 court-martial, Diamond was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Following his conviction, Michelle — who Fayetteville police said was still a suspect in her husband's murder — left North Carolina and moved to Louisiana. 

In March 2002, she was indicted in the killing, but six days before the indictment came down, she'd disappeared from New Orleans. For months, she stayed a step ahead of authorities armed with a first-degree murder warrant for her arrest. 

The search ended Aug. 6, 2002, when MIchelle was arrested in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida. She had cut her hair short and dyed it blond. She had undergone surgical alterations to her face.

When U.S. Marshals approached her for the arrest, she denied being Michelle Theer and gave them the name Lisa Pendragon — under which she'd been living. 

When the Florida complex cleaned out her apartment after her arrest, the manager found an application for a Social Security card in a different name and a birth certificate in yet another.

Cumberland County prosecutors pointed to Michelle and Diamond's intense love affair and plans to run off together, the life insurance policy on Marty, and her flight from the law — to prove Michell's guilt to a jury.

On Dec. 3, 2004, she was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

“Marty Theer would be alive today, but for Michelle Theer. Michelle Theer manipulated John Diamond, put him in a state of mind where he was capable of killing and then directed him and gave him a plan,” said prosecutor Butler in an interview for a 2016 episode of the Oxygen TV program, “Snapped: Killer Couples.”

Michelle is currently serving a life sentence in the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh.

Diamond is serving his sentence in federal prison.

2009: The slaying of Shaniya Davis

News of a 5-year-old girl missing from the Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park off Murchison Road greeted Fayetteville residents on the morning of Nov. 10, 2009.

Her mother, Antoinette Davis, told officials she last saw her daughter in a blue sleep shirt and pink panties about 5:30 a.m. At her sister's urging, Antoinette called police to report her child missing some 90 minutes later. 

Officers searched the house and surrounding neighborhoods and woods. They questioned sex offenders in the area. They noted that three months earlier a drug warrant had been served at the same residence, but no drugs had been found. 

Two other children in the home appeared unharmed.

Then a day later, after Shaniya's tender face filled the airwaves and newspapers, a clerk at a Sanford motel called officials. She said surveillance cameras captured a guest carrying a child who looked like Shaniya into a room the same morning she disappeared.

An hour later, the video showed, the man emerged. A maintenance worker at the hotel saw him carry the girl to a car and leave with her.

That man had checked in under his real name: Mario Andretti McNeill.

MORE: 10 years later, Fayetteville’s Shaniya Davis murder case still remembered

The clerk said he told her when he checked in, and again when he returned an hour later to collect his deposit, that he was the child's father and was taking her to Virginia to see her mother. 

McNeill, 29, knew Shaniya and her mother because he had dated Shaniya's aunt, Brenda Davis. The sisters and their children all lived together. At the time, McNeill and Brenda were no longer seeing each other.

On the day of the girl's disappearance, as Antoinette was outside purportedly looking for her daughter, Shaniya's 7-year-old brother told his aunt that he'd seen McNeill in the home early that morning.

It wasn't until the surveillance video came to light, however, that Brenda told police about what her nephew had said, and that she'd exchanged texts with McNeill in which he denied any involvement. 

PHOTOS: Shaniya Davis case

Less than a week after Shaniya's disappearance and with her whereabouts still unknown, McNeill surrendered to police on a kidnapping charge. He admitted taking the girl but claimed he dropped her off with someone else. He said he had no idea where she was. 

A day after that Shaniya's mother was charged with human trafficking and child abuse. Prosecutors said Antoinette gave her daughter to McNeill as payment for a $200 drug debt. 

"All he was supposed to do was have sex with her," Antoinette told detectives. 

It would be two more days and acres of searches through woods and swamps, before a tip from McNeill's attorney would lead searchers to an area in Lee County off Walker Road where hunters dump deer carcasses.

Her body was found in a ditch 100 feet off N.C. 87. An autopsy would reveal the child had been molested and suffocated. 

On May 29, 2013, McNeill would be sentenced to death after a jury found him guilty of murder, kidnapping, human trafficking, sexual servitude, taking indecent liberties with a minor and sex offense of a child by an adult offender. His appeals thus far have been denied.

On Oct. 18, 2013, Antoinette Davis entered an Alford plea to charges of second-degree murder, human trafficking, conspiracy, kidnapping, sexual offense, sexual servitude and taking indecent liberties with a minor. While an Alford plea is treated the same as a guilty plea, the defendant doesn't admit guilt but concedes the state has enough evidence for a conviction.

Antoinette Davis was sentenced to at least 17 years, six months in prison.

Records show she has a projected release date of May 8, 2027 — 40 days before what would have been her daughter's 23rd birthday.

Military & Crime Editor F.T. Norton can be reached at fnorton@fayobserver.com.

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Source : https://www.fayobserver.com/story/news/2021/11/04/fayetteville-nc-infamous-crimes-murder-jeffrey-macdonald-shaniya-davis/6248701001/

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