A former Alamance County man who was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery at a car wash in Burlington in July 1980, when he was 19, has been granted parole.
Larry Junious Booker, 60, black male, will be paroled after serving 40 years of his life sentence, the North Carolina Parole Commission announced Tuesday. Then 18, Booker had graduated from high school and had enlisted in the U.S. Army when he was taken into police custody in July 1980 in connection with an armed robbery and murder at what is described in court documents as a “Robo car wash” in Burlington. The case background lists the victim’s name as Louis Henry Shoe.
Booker’s first trial ended in a mistrial, according to the case background. He was convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery at his second trial in Alamance County, held in January 1981 and presided over by D. Marsh McLelland, who served as an Alamance County district court judge from 1968 to 1972 and as an Alamance County superior court judge from 1972 until his retirement in 1986.
At the outset of his second trial in Alamance County, Booker asserted that “the jury in the first trial had impliedly acquitted him,” by virtue of the deadlock, and that the double jeopardy provisions in the U.S. and N.C. Constitutions prohibited him from being retried for the crimes.
McLelland rejected both arguments; and Booker was sentenced to life in prison.
At the time of Booker’s conviction, a life sentence was interpreted to be 80 years (about the average life expectancy), though most defendants became eligible after serving 20 years of that term, based on an analysis that the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote in May 1982, on behalf of then-Gov. Jim Hunt’s crime commission and the U.S. Institute of Justice.
Booker appealed his conviction based on his claim that he had been coerced into confessing to the crimes and had been held in Burlington police custody 5½ hours and interrogated for 2 ½ hours, both of which he contended had been unduly long amounts of time, the case background states.
Retired former state legislator Dan Ingle – a career law officer who went on to represent Alamance County in the state house and serve as an Alamance County commissioner – was one of two detectives with the Burlington police department who interrogated Booker in July 1980, according to the case background. [During his decades-long career in law enforcement, Ingle also worked for the Alamance County sheriff’s office and as an officer with Elon’s municipal police department, prior to his elevation to Elon’s police chief.] Jerry D. Garner, then a detective with the police department, is listed in the case background as the other officer who interrogated Booker in July 1980.
Both Ingle and Garner testified at the trial in Alamance County that Booker had initially denied any involvement in the murder and robbery at the car wash, but when Ingle asked to see his wallet, Booker gave it to him, saying “The money is in the billfold.” The then-detective Ingle found $58 in Booker’s wallet, which – in the context of Booker’s statement about where “the money” was – was deemed incriminating, according to the case background. During the interrogation, Garner took a phone call from the State Bureau of Investigation, and repeated aloud the results from a ballistics test that confirmed that shell casings found at the scene of the crime had been fired from an automatic pistol later recovered from Booker’s mother’s home. Booker began to cry as he overheard Garner’s conversation with the SBI and confessed shortly thereafter. “At no time did [Booker] request a break in his statement” and neither investigator “directed or suggested” that he answer in any particular way, the case background states.
The case ultimately wound its way to the state Supreme Court – twice – with Booker insisting his confession had been coerced, according to factual background cited in both rulings by the N.C. Supreme Court.
In July 1982, the state Supreme Court remanded his case to Alamance County for a new hearing and entry of findings of fact to support the conclusion that Booker had confessed voluntarily.
The “voluntariness” of his confession was upheld during a subsequent hearing in Alamance County in August 1982, according to the case background.
On remand, a visiting superior court judge from Harnett County, Wiley F. Bowen, found that Booker had been interrogated by “only two officers” (Ingle and Garner); that he asked and was allowed to use the phone; availed himself of the restroom at the Burlington police department headquarters; refused the investigators’ offers of food and drink; at no time asked for the interrogation to stop or to request to speak with an attorney; and was not physically or verbally abused, according to the case background.
In September 1983, N.C. Supreme Court again ruled that Booker had not been coerced into confessing. Nor had he been subjected to an “unduly lengthy” interrogation, according to the 1983 ruling by the state Supreme Court.
Rather, the state’s highest court found that, based on the evidence presented and a review of the trial in Alamance County, Booker’s confession had been made “freely and voluntarily and was admissible against him,” the case background states.
Booker is currently incarcerated at Southern Correctional Institution, a close-custody prison for men located about 72 miles south of Burlington in Troy. The N.C. Parole Commission did not give the date that Booker is scheduled for release.