GRAHAM — Latanya Michelle Whetsell admitted in open court Friday, June 14, to shooting at a Rockingham County social worker on Webb Avenue in 2017, and said her then boyfriend, Christopher Lee Neal, drove the car and got rid of her gun.
"I rolled my window down and shot at Ms. Glover's car, and I wanted to hit her," Whetsell testified.
About 11:30 p.m. June 13, 2017, Carliethia Glover, then a social worker with Rockingham County Department of Social Services, was driving home on West Webb Avenue, she testified earlier this week, when a blue BMW SUV blocked her in the parking lot of Glen Raven Pharmacy, and two shots went through her car windows, narrowly missing her. Both Neal and Whetsell are charged in the attack.
Neal is on trial for attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle, and possession of a firearm by a felon. Whetsell pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and shooting into the car a week ago, and agreed to testify against Neal in exchange for dismissal of an attempted murder charge against her. She could face 10 years in prison, but would have faced a lot more without the deal.
Neal, representing himself in court, spent most of Friday trying to get Whetsell to say she went after Glover alone because DSS took her children from her house pending an investigation into domestic-violence allegations she made against Neal. He also accused her of cheating on him and called her a liar at least a dozen times.
"They came to embarrass you within the whole community," Neal prompted. "They dragged your babies out of the house without a jacket on."
Whetsell admitted to being angry, but not to dropping Neal off before the trip to Burlington that led to the shooting.
Glover was supposed to make a routine wellness check on Whetsell's young children after the umbilical cord from her newborn daughter tested positive for marijuana. Whetsell, who had a history with Rockingham County DSS, would not give Glover an address until late in the afternoon when the alternative was a court appearance.
Neal, in the meantime, had several confrontational encounters with Rockingham DSS workers and, according to their testimony, chased Glover and her co-worker Emily Pulliam in his blue BMW SUV at up to 90 mph on the highway and through Reidsville that afternoon. He also told DSS Director Melissa Kaneko that Whetsell had taken out a domestic-violence protective order against him that January alleging he chased her in a car and pistol whipped her in front of their children in 2016 sending her to the hospital, which made the investigation much more serious.
Those were not the first children Whetsell had lost. Social worker Jan Odum testified Thursday that she handled a previous case with her around 2014 that ended with Whetsell's first three children in foster care. It had been a simple case, Odum said, that also started with a wellness check after Whetsell's son got sick in Fayetteville and a home visit where Odum said the conditions were "deplorable" because of several dogs kept in the house. All of that could have been resolved, Odum said, but Whetsell would not cooperate with a plan largely to do with cleaning up the house or coming to court. Odum ended up handling the adoption of two of those children.
On cross examination, Neal asked Whetsell about that time and being evicted from an apartment before moving into that house. She said she moved because she didn't want to get rid of her dog.
"So you traded your children for a puppy?" Neal asked.
On June 13, 2017, Kaneko testified, DSS tried to get Whetsell to take the children to another house until they could determine whether they were safe with Neal. By the time she agreed to take them to her mother's in Fayetteville, it was after 6 p.m., and DSS had already gotten a court order to take the children into custody, which meant it could not release them into an unlicensed home without a safety check. Whetsell said she didn't know why DSS took the children.
"My belief is that my children were illegally taken," Whetsell testified.
After the children were taken from their home, Neal and Whetsell went to the DSS office, she said, to speak to a supervisor, where they saw Glover and Pulliam again and their cars.
Later, Whetsell testified, she couldn't stay in the house without the children, and she and Neal decided to go to Raleigh. The next morning they would go to DSS there and speak to a lawyer. On the way, they passed the Rockingham County sheriff's car that was escorting Glover to the county line on her way home as it turned back. Whetsell recognized Glover's car. She testified to telling Neal to follow it, and as they got into Burlington, she took out the Smith and Wesson 9 mm pistol she routinely kept in her purse and held it in her lap.
Whetsell said she remembered shooting once and the gun jammed.
"I tried to hit her again because I knew I didn't kill her, and again it jammed," Whetsell testified.
They were arrested two days later in South Carolina. She has been in jail since. Neal was out on bail for much of 2018, but was rearrested when Assistant District Attorney Rick Champion added attempted murder to the charges against him and increased his bond early this year.
In his lengthy cross examination, Neal asked Whetsell whether she'd heard about another relationship he'd been in while he was released, saying that was her motivation for lying about him, questioned her about other assaults she has been charged with, some of which she denied or pleaded the Fifth Amendment, accused her numerous times of lying about having a marijuana problem and lying about smoking it while pregnant, and even brought up an old under-the-table job saying she defrauded the federal government.
The cross examination wasn't over at the end of the day, but Whetsell and the jury will get a break next week. An annual statewide judges conference means there will be no Superior Court in North Carolina until Monday, June 24, when the trial resumes.
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