Crime & Courts

Mayor, wife found dead in their Eastern NC home. ‘They were the epitome of good people.’

A male victim was fatally shot in the neck outside of an apartment complex in west Charlotte Monday night.
A male victim was fatally shot in the neck outside of an apartment complex in west Charlotte Monday night. File Photo

A mayor of a small Eastern North Carolina town and his wife were found dead in their home, and police say they have suspects in custody.

The Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook late Thursday that it was not immediately releasing the victims’ names, “per the wishes of their family.’”

A commissioner in the town of Leggett, however, confirmed in a phone interview with The Charlotte Observer that Leggett Mayor Gary Skelton and his wife, Jackie Skelton, had died. Leggett, population 55, is about 7 miles northwest of Tarboro.

Keith Earl Williams, 25, of Tarboro, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, Edgecombe County Sheriff Cleveland “Clee” Atkinson Jr. said at a news conference Friday morning, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported. Another person of interest was arrested on unrelated charges, Atkinson said.

Deputies were called to a home in Leggett “to check the welfare of someone thought to be missing,” the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook. “Deputies discovered two people deceased on the property ... At this time, no one else is believed to be in danger. Suspects are in custody.”

Authorities were notified after Jackie Skelton failed to come to work Thursday morning at Vidant Edgecombe Hospital in Tarboro, where she was an oncology nurse, Leggett town commissioner Teresa Summerlin told the Observer.

“I can’t say enough good about them,” Summerlin said. “They were the epitome of good people ....It’s devastating. It’s nauseating. This community has lost two very special people.”

The couple moved from Georgia about 20 years ago, according to Summerlin. They had just returned from babysitting their grandchildren in Georgia when they were found dead, she said.

Gary Skelton was a banker for BB&T in Rocky Mount until retiring, she said. He loved to restore classic cars.

He also was “bringing Leggett into this century” through his efforts to update town ordinances and zoning regulations, she said. Skelton was in his second term as mayor, she said. The mayor serves four-year terms.

“He was putting his heart into this town,” Summerlin told the Observer. “This is heart-breaking news. They were special people, very special.”

More information is expected to be released on Friday, according to the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak