Accused killer of Treasure Feamster pleads guilty, but not to murder; DA explains why | Crime
SALISBURY - It was one of Salisbury's most tragic and high profile criminal cases, and it led to a push to curb the activity of gangs in Salisbury, and across North Carolina.
Treasure Feamster, 13, was shot and killed while attending a party at the J.C. Price American Legion building. She was caught in the crossfire of two rival gangs who were shooting it out in the parking lot.
On Tuesday the man who police say pulled the trigger and killed Feamster in March, 2007, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, but still denied killing Feamster.
Reginald Leach, 22, who was charged with murder, pleaded guilty under an Alford plea to voluntary manslaughter, felony inciting a riot, and a felony charge of possession of a firearm by a felon. An Alford plea means the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges that prosecutors could win a conviction if the case were to go to trial.
Leach was sentenced to 100 to 129 months in prison by Judge Erwin Spainhour, but will get credit the part of the nearly six years that he has been in jail that was related to the Feamster case.
District Attorney Brandy Cook told WBTV that the decision to accept the plea was not an easy one.
"The plea to felony voluntary manslaughter, felony inciting to riot, and felony possession of a firearm by felon took into consideration the circumstantial nature of the evidence, the lack of cooperation by witnesses, and the fact that several key witnesses have now changed their statement." Cook told WBTV. "In reviewing this case with Chief Collins and investigators with the Salisbury Police Department they were in agreement with the resolution of this case. In making the difficult decision to accept a plea to felony voluntary manslaughter, in this particular case the state conducted a professional and objective assessment of the competent and admissible evidence. Our office worked closely with Treasure Feamster's parents as well as with the Salisbury Police Department. We hope this disposition will help bring some closure to the family of Treasure Feamster.
In 2009 Leach was in court for another attempt at a plea hearing, but the deal fell through and Leach refused, so back to jail he went.
WBTV was in the courtroom in 2009 and recorded Leach saying "I didn't do it. I'd rather go back to my cell."
After that, :Leach turned around to tell his mother that he loved her, and she shouted that she was glad he would not accept the plea deal from then District Attorney Bill Kenerly.
The District Attorney's Office was going to reduce the first-degree murder charge to second-degree murder and consolidate the rioting charge.
Five others were charged in the case of Feamster's death.
Damarcus Antonio Richardson, Alvin Deon Harrell, John Calvin Sifford, Patrick Antonio Hailey, and Elbert Leon Chambers III, have all completed sentences and have been released on various charges associated with the case.
Leach was identified by police as the shooter and was the only suspect to face the murder charge.