Pender County jury returns guilty verdict in murder-by-baseball bat case

Pender County jury returns guilty verdict in murder-by-baseball bat case

BURGAW, N.C. (WECT) - A Pender County jury found a man guilty of first-degree murder Tuesday afternoon, in the death of 18-year-old Antonio Logan. Logan was beaten to death with a baseball bat in Willard on June 29, 2017. Incredibly, a dispute over social media led to the deadly fight between the two teenagers, who didn’t even know each other.

According to prosecutors, 20-year-old Renesha Lagina-Ann Bryant and Antonio Logan’s girlfriend got into a war of words on Facebook. Dontay Peterson, the defendant, was dating Bryant at the time. He previously dated Logan’s girlfriend, and there were some hard feelings among the exes.

That social media spat eventually prompted Bryant and Peterson to track down Logan in person in Willard, where he was stranded after his car had broken down. Prosecutors say Bryant continued to instigate hostilities between Logan and her boyfriend, trying to “bait” Logan into putting his hands on her, calling him a “bitch ass” and a “coward.” Bryant recorded the interaction on her phone and broadcast it on social media, the video which was shared with the jury.

Prosecutors say that despite being provoked, Logan refused to engage with Bryant or Peterson. At some point, Peterson got out of the car armed with a baseball bat. He admitted to hitting Logan in the side, which fractured his ribs. After Logan fell to the ground from the initial blow, Peterson hit him four more times in the head, crushing his skull. Logan was unarmed.

During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Jason Smith recalled the testimony of an EMT who responded to the scene. She testified that Logan’s ears were touching the gurney when he was being transported to the hospital because his skull had been crushed, a level of head trauma that she had never seen before or since.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning the guilty verdict. Defense attorney Teresa Gibson had asked for a verdict of second-degree murder, noting that Peterson was only 19 at the time of the deadly fight, and this was out of character for him.

“He’s not a fighter. But that night he made a huge mistake,” Gibson told the jury, explaining Peterson’s behavior as “foolish panic” trying to defend his girlfriend. She noted that even with a second-degree murder conviction, he could easily spend 30 years in prison.

Instead, Peterson will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Smith argued that was the more appropriate sentence, in part because of the level of injury inflicted on the defenseless victim, and because of Peterson’s behavior after the attack. Smith noted that Peterson dumped the bloody baseball bat in the woods, and failed to call the police after the brutal beating to seek assistance for Logan.

Bryant is also facing first-degree murder charges for her role inciting this dispute. She has yet to go to trial.

Copyright 2019 WECT. All rights reserved.