DURHAM — Murder charges against two Durham men accused of killing of a man outside the Red Lobster in 2010 were dismissed this month when some witnesses couldn’t be sure that they identified the right men.
The two defendants, Jermaine Isaac Brown, 40, and Tyree Visharin Harris Jr., both of Durham, entered Alford pleas to the charge of assault inflicting serious bodily injury in connection with the incident. An Alford plea means a person pleads guilty but does not admit guilt.
Brown appeared in court on Feb. 5, and Harris appeared on Feb. 6, and both men received the same plea deal, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Bedford said. Each was sentenced to 20 to 24 months in prison.
Bedford said the victim, Larry Donnell Timberlake, 52, who lived in the Atlanta area, was having dinner Aug. 10, 2010, with his family, including his two adult daughters, at the Red Lobster on Chapel Hill Boulevard. After the meal as the family walked to their cars, two men walked by the daughters, spoke briefly, and one of them immediately shots Timberlake in the chest and abdomen, Bedford said. He died at Duke Hospital, she said.
The two men fled the parking lot, and witness said they saw a gold minivan leave the area. A security video showed two men running to a minivan, but the men could not be identified from the video, she said.
Two men had been in the bar area of the restaurant as the victim and his family ate their dinners. The bartender identified Harris as being one of the men in the bar that night, and one of the daughters was able to identify him by a tattoo on his neck, Bedford said.
Undercover investigators had been investigating Harris on drug charges, and they linked him to a gold minivan, Bedford said.
One daughter looked at a photo lineup with Brown’s photo, but she could not say 100 percent sure that Brown was the man who approached her father, Bedford said.
A short distance away, another man, Robert Terry, was shot that night in a nearby parking lot. He survived but did not cooperate with the police investigation, Bedford said.
Brown’s attorney, Michael Driver, told Superior Court Judge Elaine Bushfan that Brown did not match the Police Department’s description of either men
“We certainly would have been challenging identification if this had gone to trial,” he said.
The shooting of their father caused a great amount of stress to the family, and afterward they just weren’t sure about their identifications of the men, Bedford said. They could not take the stand if the cases had gone to trial, she said.
Bushfan approved the plea agreements. Brown was given credit for 546 days he spent in jail awaiting trial, and Harris was given credit for 377 days.
Harris is currently serving a term of 2 years and 11 months to3 years and 6 months for drug trafficking in the N.C. Department of Corrections.