Pastor who lost wife in fatal attack, burned home testifies in court

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Thursday, April 26, 2018
Home invasion victim faces suspect in court
The Rev. John Alford have testimony as to the night his home was burned and his wife by fatally shot by an attacker.

WARREN COUNTY, NC (WTVD) -- The Rev. John Alford approached a witness stand in a Warren County courtroom shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday to testify against his alleged attacker.

Sitting less than 20 feet away, donned in an orange jumpsuit and uncuffed - Lester Kearney; the man who Alford said broke into his home the morning of March 9 and killed his wife, Nancy, before setting the home on fire.

During the probable cause hearing, prosecutors also called the lead investigator of the case with the Warren County Sheriff's Office to the stand, along with a special agent for the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).

Prosecutors asked the investigator a series of questions that created a timeline beginning "at or around 8 a.m." and ending "around 10 a.m. or sometime after" as noted by the investigator.

Throughout questioning, the investigator acknowledged that co-defendant Kevin Munn had been arrested in connection with the couple's stolen Mercedes in Haywood County. Munn told authorities that Kearney was also involved in the crime. At some point, investigators said, Alford mentioned his attacker was "well-spoken," and "didn't use street slang," and had "part of his face covered in flat paint."

The defense argued that the timeline of events presented by investigators - the home invasion, round-trip drive from Littleton to the couple's bank in Roanoke Rapids, and home burning down - is inaccurate.

When asked, investigator John Branch, said a drive to the SECU branch in Roanoke Rapids would have taken "about 40 minutes or so." In addition, the defense attempted to discredit the investigation because Kearney's DNA had not been found at the scene, and he'd only been identified by name and photograph, as opposed to in-person, and a polygraph test had not been taken.

"I don't know that would benefit him at this time," Branch said.

When Alford entered the courtroom, his pace of walk was slow, and his demeanor calm. After agreeing to testify under oath, the pastor gave a detailed account of that March 9 morning up until the moment his house went up in flames. Alford testified waking up that morning to a man in his bedroom. He initially thought he was dreaming, so he rubbed his eyes, and the man; later identified as Kearney, was still standing in the room. Alford methodically walked the court through his being tied to the bed, to his wife's plea for the attacker to stop, to attempting to rescue her. He said he recalls Nancy shouting, "Oh God, No!" from another room followed by a "kabloom."

After hearing Nancy cry for help, Alford was able to break free, "only to be met by flames," he testified. He would later crawl on his hands and knees beneath the flames, but Nancy could no longer be heard.

Presented with all the evidence, the presiding judge found enough evidence to find probable cause against Kearney.

"It's obviously incredibly difficult to be able to come into court and face your (attacker) no matter what the circumstances in a violent crime like this," said district attorney Mike Waters. "I thought (Alford) was very brave and he did an amazing job in relaying obviously a painful memory."

The case will now move to superior court.