Three men accused of torturing and murdering David Doyle while they scoured his home for gold will not face the death penalty.
Defendants Peter Gould, Tardra Bouknight and Daniel Blakeney were not in the courtroom Thursday when the district attorney’s office made the announcement. But Blakeney’s mother watched from a few rows behind the prosecutors, and Gould’s attorney expressed relief at the decision.
“Given the nature of the crime, and what is alleged to have happened in the house, there was the possibility of a capital trial,” said public defender Dean Loven, who said again his client is cooperating with police.
Death-penalty cases have become increasingly rare in North Carolina and other states, and are reserved for what Loven described as “especially heinous and atrocious” crimes. That Doyle is believed to have been stabbed and burned for an unknown period of time before he was killed “could have risen to that level,” Loven said.
The three defendants are charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and assault. A murder conviction would bring a mandatory life sentence without parole.
Blakeney’s mother, Kathy Blakeney, who left the courtroom after the brief hearing about her son’s case, did not return phone calls for comment Thursday afternoon. In his initial talks with police last summer, Daniel Blakeney denied any involvement with Doyle’s death.
Doyle was a Wyoming car dealer who had retired to Charlotte. He had a habit of telling friends and neighbors that he was stockpiling gold at his home in the RiverPointe neighborhood near Lake Wylie, in anticipation of an economic collapse.
Gould, the victim’s former yardman and a methamphetamine addict, was the mastermind of a plan with brothers Bouknight and Blakeney to steal Doyle’s stash, Loven says.
During the July 18 siege on the house, Doyle was tied with parachute cord, stabbed, burned and later killed. His body was found the next day.
The defendants have lengthy criminal backgrounds.
Bouknight’s criminal record stretches back almost 20 years. He has been convicted in a string of burglaries dating to 2003.
Blakeney’s record stretches back almost 20 years and has qualified him as a habitual felon. He has done prison time for theft, breaking and entering, assault and selling drugs.
Gould, originally from New Hampshire, has drug convictions in Florida and North Carolina. At the time police identified him as a suspect in Doyle’s killing, Gould was in custody in Union County after being charged with trafficking heroin, possessing methamphetamine and fraud. He’s still awaiting trial on those charges. Loven said police found Gould’s DNA on a vase that was smeared with Doyle’s blood.
Loven said his client was brought to the Mecklenburg courthouse Thursday but did not appear before Superior Court Judge Bob Bell. Prosecutors have not offered Gould a plea agreement, but Loven said he is hopeful of getting one.
“Mr. Gould has cooperated from the beginning,” he said. “I can’t speak for the district attorney, but his cooperation with police would undoubtedly put him in a good condition.”
Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS