Cochran gets life for murder
Tue, 03/22/2016 - 11:59pm
Charles Andrew Cochran will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole following a plea agreement in Macon County Superior Court on Monday afternoon.
Cochran pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder in connection with the death of 71-year old Day Williamson at her Burningtown home on Aug. 2, 2014.
Judge William Coward accepted the plea agreement and heard victim impact statements during the sentencing phase of the court appearance. Assistant District Attorney Eric Bellas read a statement prepared by several of Williamson’s close friends.
“Our friend was taken from us in a horrible and cruel way and we will never understand why,” Bellas read. “Where is the justice for a person who was so caring and compassionate? We miss her every single day, and our lives will never be the same because the defendant changed our lives forever. To know Day was to love her, and may God have mercy on (Cochran’s) soul.”
Williamson’s friend Londa Woody also chose to address the court and asked Cochran to explain why he committed his crimes.
“It’s been horrible for the four of us that were so close with Day,” Woody said. “More than that, all of us love and support (Cochran’s) family. They are good people who raised him the best that they could. I’ve known him since he was a child and he would spend whole days with me, and Day would do the same. He had a good home and a good family, and I just want to know why he did this.”
Cochran did not address the court or the victim’s family during the victim impact statements, but his attorney David Belser did make a statement on behalf of Cochran and his family – many of whom were also in the courtroom.
“On my client’s behalf, to the friends and family of Ms. Williamson we want to say thank you for your willingness to accept this plea arrangement,” Belser said. “My client’s family very much appreciates that and so does my client.”
Cochran’s road to Monday’s sentencing hearing began on the evening of July 30, 2014. While working as a trusty at the Macon County Detention Center, Cochran was taking out the trash when he ran into the nearby woods and eluded deputies.
Following his escape, Cochran made his way to Williamson’s home on Middle Burningtown Road, where investigators believe he spent a night before strangling Williamson, setting fire to the residence and stealing her vehicle on Aug. 2, 2014.
“Upon investigation of the fire scene, the body of Ms. Williamson was discovered and investigators found that Ms. Williamson’s vehicle and two firearms were missing from the residence,” Bellas said during the state’s finding of facts.
“An autopsy was performed at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem and the medical examiner discovered, based on Ms. Williamson’s injuries, that she had been strangled prior to the fire.”
Williamson’s vehicle was found parked off of Old Murphy Road on Aug. 3, 2014.
A 911 call led to Cochran’s capture on Aug. 4, 2014 at a home on Green Street in Franklin.
The caller, John Wilson, indicated a man showed up at his home after speaking with a mutual acquaintance and asked for a place to stay for a couple of nights. Although he used a fake name, Wilson deduced that the man was in fact Cochran and called authorities.
“Following his arrest, Mr. Cochran willingly waived his Miranda Rights on multiple occasions and voluntarily submitted to interviews with investigators,” Bellas said. “On Aug. 8, 2014, during an interview with Sheriff Robert Holland, Mr. Cochran confessed to breaking into Ms. Williamson’s shed, strangling her and setting fire to her residence before stealing her vehicle.”
Coward read the list of charges levied against Cochran, including first-degree murder, first-degree arson, felony larceny and two counts of felony possession of firearm by a felon, and asked Cochran if he understood the charges against him.
Cochran replied that he did understand the charges as well as the terms of the plea arrangement.
Coward consolidated all of the lesser offenses into the one count of first-degree murder before informing Cochran that he is to spend the rest of his life in a North Carolina Department of Corrections facility with no possibility of parole.
Cochran will also have to pay $2,545 in restitution to Williamson’s family to cover funeral expenses.
After the sentencing, Cochran was led out of the courtroom by several law enforcement officers and taken to the Macon County Detention Center to await transfer to a state prison facility.