WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly eight months later, a man is facing murder charges in connection with the shooting deaths of four people on Christmas Eve in 2016 at a Wilson home, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.
Dereck Eugene Harris, 29, will face four counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of 54-year-old Tammy Lynnette Pearce, her 47-year-old boyfriend Selby Gene Outland, her 28-year-old son Paul Shane Pearce, and his 23-year-old girlfriend Dominique Nicole Privette.
Wilson County Sheriff Calvin Woodard, Jr., said the murders are believed to have been “due to a drug debt involved with the suspect and one of the victims.”
Darryl Morgan, who knew the victims and now lives in the house, said Shane Pearce had a drug problem.
“I believe it was probably a drug related thing, and the bad thing is that three people that was innocent got brutally attacked. They were real good people, and they got took out on a very special day, Christmas Eve. It’s a time of thought and giving,” Morgan said.
“I can’t even understand how their family could take something in at such a time like that. I had to bury my dog this morning, and it was brutal to me, so doing that with a family member, especially on a special day, I just don’t understand could take a life on a God-forgiven day.”
Morgan flies flags at the house with one for each of the people who died there.
The incident was reported just before 1 p.m. Christmas Eve at a home in the 2200 block of Banks Lane East just east of Wilson, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.
The shooting appeared to have happened either Dec. 23, 2016, or early on Christmas Eve, deputies said at the time.
Three of the four victims were discovered by Tammy Pearce’s father, as indicated in a 911 call that was released on Dec. 28, 2016. The fourth victim, Selby Gene Outland, was not seen by the man.
According to the sheriff’s office, Harris has been in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections since Jan. 12 when he was arrested on suspicion of discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling and a probation violation stemming from a separate incident. Harris was found hiding inside a house in Wilson city limits.
“It’s a relief to get some justice now. They finally found someone to pinpoint who did a brutal execution of innocent people,” Morgan said.
“The community, they’ve suffered through this just like everybody else. This is four murders that have gone unsolved for a long period of time, and now, we got a little closure.”
Sheriff Woodard released a statement that can be read below:
Investigators have worked countless hours on the case that is still being actively investigated. It was never placed on the back burner. We constantly kept working the case until we came to this point; however, we are not stopping here. We will continue our investigation until we locate everybody accountable for this crime. Harris was known to some of the victims. The detectives followed great leads and significant evidence that led to an arrest in this horrific crime.
We can actively say that the motive was due to a drug debt involved with the suspect and one of the victims. Investigators have determined nothing was stolen from the home during the time of the shooting.
Harris has always been a person of interest in this case. We had to keep working different channels, follow every lead, interview numerous witnesses and also obtain other evidence critical to the case. We remained tight-lipped about the case because we didn’t want to lose evidence or allow anything to fall between the cracks. In other words, to protect the integrity of the investigation, we had to be careful on every level.
We sympathize and appreciate the patience of the family and the community. Each family involved had a designated contact person with whom the major case detective kept in touch with at all times concerning the case. In addition, the contact person and the community were made aware that the Christmas Eve homicides were an isolated incident- we would never place the public in any danger. We knew the community was safe because we had him, but Harris’ arrest doesn’t represent the end of this investigation. We are definitely looking in to information on additional suspects. This arrest is not only important for the family of the victims but for the community and law enforcement.
It’s not right that the victims and their families had to endure the pain from this incident. We have worked to solve the killings every day, and this was one of those cases that kept us awake at night. I’m thankful we have a strong investigative team who has been working on this for the last eight months, ensuring closure for the families and the community.”
The sheriff’s office is asking anyone with information regarding the case to call 252-237-2118. People can report information anonymously.