N.C. arrests Ga. man in 1995 slaying

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 7:43 AM
Last updated 6:59 PM
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North Carolina authorities have charged a Madison County man in a 17-year-old murder case that recently was reopened.

Gator Walter Martin, 42, of Comer, Ga., and two other suspects were arrested Monday, said Cleveland County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Hollingsworth. A fourth suspect died several years ago of natural causes, he said.

The men are charged in the slaying of Charlene Simmons, who was stabbed to death June 21, 1995, during a robbery at her home outside Kings Mountain, N.C. The other suspects are William Earl Huffstetler, 37, of Blacksburg, S.C., and Randy Michael Wagenknecht, 40, of Knoxville, Tenn.

Simmons ran a tavern out of her home, and though the shot house was illegal, neighbors described it as a quiet place and no one complained, according to report in The Star newspaper of Shelby.

Madison County Chief Deputy Shawn Burns said Martin waived extradition and has been returned to Shelby, N.C.

Deputies went unannounced to Martin’s home about 4 p.m. on Roy Woods Road, a dirt road that parallels the Broad River along the Elbert County border.

“He was inside the house, but he did not resist arrest. His wife was there and other family members, but we had absolutely no problems,” Hollingsworth said, adding that Madison deputies “had him under arrest in seconds. It was quickly and professionally done.”

The suspect’s brother, Dennis Harold, was visiting the Martin home when his brother was arrested.

North Carolina detectives “came up last week and wanted him to take a lie detector test and he said he wouldn’t. They said they’d be back in a couple of days. That’s about all I can tell you,” he said Tuesday.

Martin, who has worked in construction, grew up in Florida and recently had back surgery, Harold said.

The break in the case comes from a cold case team established about a year ago by Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman. Hollingsworth, a retired Charlotte policeman, along with Jimmy West, a former Gastonia policeman, and FBI agent John Kaiser, reopened the Simmons investigation about six months ago.

Hollingsworth declined to reveal what evidence led to the charges. He said the unit has eight other unsolved homicides and two missing persons cases dating back to the 1980s.


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