One month later, no charges have been filed in Columbus Co. triple murder

One month later, no charges have been filed in Columbus Co. triple murder
A 5-year-old boy and his parents were fatally shot in September. (Source: WECT)

COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - After more than a month, no charges have been filed in the fatal shooting of three family members at a home outside of Whiteville.

Sheriff Jody Greene said first responders were called to a home on Brittany Lane just before 7 a.m. on Sept. 7. When they arrived, they found four people with gunshot wounds.

Despite first responders’ efforts to save the victims, Leonel Ciprian Noyola, his wife, Nancy Trujillo Espinoza, and his 5-year-old son, Alexis Trujillo, died. The child’s grandmother, Rafaela Noyola Jaramillo, also was wounded by gunfire.

A man wanted for questioning in the case, Marquez Montrell Cherry, was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Lumberton on Sept. 17. Cherry was wanted on unrelated charges of possession of a stolen firearm, possession with intent to sell/deliver cocaine, and resisting a public officer after deputies executed a search warrant at a home on Twin Pines Road on Sept. 9.

According to a search warrant application, a witness told investigators that an individual named ‘lil Buzzie,’ identified as Cherry, was “in the presence of the victim Mr. Noyola on the night/morning of his death.”

The search warrant application also states that the victims’ 2011 Ford Fusion was taken from the murder scene. On Sept. 8, a caller to Columbus County 911 reported that a vehicle matching the description of the Noyolas’ car was located on Twin Pines Road. The caller said that two men were walking near the car and one told the caller he was walking to the end of the street to a friend’s house to get his car.

Deputies responded to the scene and determined it to be the stolen vehicle.

While searching the area, they found a man identified as Jonathan Walter Watts sitting in a pickup truck parked in the front yard of 667 Twin Pines Road in Whiteville. When asked who lived at that location, Watts told investigators “Peaches” and “lil’ Buzzie.” Deputies attempted to make contact with the residents but were told they had left earlier and were not home.

The stolen car was found within 1/8-mile from the residence, according to the warrant application.

During the Sept. 9 search the home at 667 Twin Pines Road in Whiteville, investigators seized multiple firearms, including an AR-15, ammunition and two bags of a white powder substance.

Watts was later wanted for question in the case. According to Michele Tatum with the sheriff’s office, Watts subsequently was located and interviewed by investigators.

Tatum confirmed this week that no one was been charged in the murders or the vehicle theft at this point.

Copyright 2019 WECT. All rights reserved.