Wilmington man sentenced to 11.8 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter

Wilmington resident Jonathan Dwight Southers, 54, entered an Alford guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter in New Hanover County Superior Court.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 4:52 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington resident Jonathan Dwight Southers, 54, entered an Alford guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter in New Hanover County Superior Court on Wednesday and will serve up to 11.8 years in prison.

Southers was arrested for the death of Yolanda Bentley at Hanover Landing Apartments on April 12, 2018 at around 2 a.m. Southers stabbed Bentley once in the chest and fled. Bentley succumbed to her injuries on the scene.

According to a release from District Attorney Ben David’s Office, a woman told detectives that Southers and another friend had been drinking with her in her apartment on the night of April 11 when an argument between her and Southers started over the woman’s friendship with Bentley. The woman said that Southers pushed her down and grabbed her phone when she tried to call Bentley, and then Southers left on his bike, only to come back later.

Investigators believed that Bentley and Southers confronted each other and it escalated into violence after neighbors reported hearing another argument outside of the woman’s apartment after 2 a.m.

A wooden chair leg was found near Bentley’s body, which appeared to have come from a chair in her apartment. A resident also reported seeing a man on a bike leaving the apartment complex while another person yelled for someone to call 911.

Phone and cell tower location records showed that the defendant was in the area at the time of the murder and stayed in Wilmington for days after.

During questioning, Southers told detectives that he had left the apartment before anyone was killed and went to Myrtle Beach. He said his phone was broken and that he had thrown it away that night.

Southers made several calls when he was booked at the New Hanover County Detention Center, and the recorded conversations captured him telling another woman that she needed to throw his phone into the Cape Fear River.

That woman was located and confirmed that she had disposed of the phone for the defendant. This woman also said that Southers was “acting strangely shortly after the murder and told her that he had done something to a woman and needed to turn himself in.”