GRAHAM — "I don't feel, considering the facts of this case, that justice is to show you much mercy," said Superior Court Judge Tom Lambeth at sentencing. "And I don't often feel that."
Lambeth gave Christopher Lee Neal, 44, four consecutive sentences adding up to at least 24 years and eight months to as much as 33 years and five months in prison in the attempted murder of a Rockingham County social worker June 13, 2017, on Webb Avenue in Burlington. Neal dropped into his chair as Lambeth was reading the third sentence and slouched. He gave notice of appeal while he was still sitting.
The jury found Neal guilty of attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, discharging a firearm into a moving occupied vehicle, and possession of a firearm by a felon before lunch Wednesday, June 26.
Jurors began deliberations after 10 a.m. About 11:20 a.m., jurors were back in the courtroom asking to hear a recording of a jail-house phone call Latanya Michelle Whetsell had made to Neal's cousin, Monique Barnett.
Neal "ain't going to like me after the trial — I'm not doing 20 years," Whetsell said. "I'm just going to tell the truth. I'm going to tell them I shot the lady, but I can't deny that he was driving."
Neal represented himself through the eight-day trail, and "did a pretty good job of it, with some exceptions," Lambeth said, and had defense lawyer Craig Thompson for advice. In one of the few instances where Thompson got to speak for Neal, he argued for a single consolidated sentence — possibly 15 to 19 years — saying Neal had a history of consistent employment, and in 1995 at 18 years old, had been sentenced to 30 years in a federal crack distribution case. He served 20 years, and wasn't the "big fish," and could have gotten a much lighter sentence in state court, Thompson said.
"But he was swept up in the lock-him-up-and-throw-away the key mentality," Thompson said. "I ask you to give him the chance to build some kind of life."
Lambeth, however agreed with Assistant District Attorney Rick Champion that Neal's behavior was especially bad even to veterans of the legal system considering he drove from Reidsville to Burlington to attack Glover after stalking her through the day.
"You're being punished for the outrageousness of what you participated in that night," Lambeth said. "'You may die tonight' you said that to this woman .... And to make good on your threat was outrageous."
For his part, Neal said none of his aggressive questioning and behavior in court was personal, and said he didn't bear the victim or Champion any ill will. He blamed Whetsell.
"It's just a messed-up situation," Neal said. "I feel like I got a bad deal out of the whole situation."
The victim, Carliethia Glover, also spoke before sentencing. She testified that she has been in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder since the attack and will never be able to go back to social work — a career she loved and trained for years to get into.
"I cared for your children, I cared for your family, but you didn't care for me, Mr. Neal, you didn't care for me," Glover said. "I can't turn the switch off in my own head just to have of peace from all this. Please don't hurt anyone else.
"I forgive you."
Glover, a Rockingham County social worker in 2017, was supposed to make a routine wellness check on Whetsell's young children June 13, 2017, after the umbilical cord from her newborn daughter tested positive for marijuana. Neal and Whetsell refused to give Glover an address, and Neal chased her and fellow social worker Emily Pulliam in his blue BMW SUV at speeds as fast as 90 mph on the highway and through Reidsville that afternoon.
Neal himself brought serious domestic-violence charges Whetsell had brought against him to the attention of DSS that day, making the investigation more urgent. After another confrontation at Neal's and Whetsell's home, DSS took the children into foster care that evening.
Glover was driving to her home in Burlington about 11:30 p.m. that night when a blue BMW SUV blocked her in the parking lot of Glen Raven Pharmacy. A shot went through her driver's side rear window, and another hit the pillar between the front and rear windows, missing her by inches.
Whetsell has a plea bargain with the Alamance County District Attorney's Office to testify truthfully in Neal's trial. In exchange, she will face charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, but not attempted first-degree murder. Her sentence will be left up to a judge.
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