ROCKINGHAM — The District Attorney’s office on Tuesday announced in Richmond County Superior Court that it would be seeking the death penalty for a man charged in a double murder.
Christopher Mark Robson, 44, is accused of killing Joseph and Katherine Cassidy on Aug. 20.
According to a judicial order from the Rule 24 conference, prosecutors “contend there is evidence in support of at least one” of the 11 aggravating circumstances listed in state law, although no circumstances are specified.
Those circumstances are if:
• the capital felony was committed by a person lawfully incarcerated.
• the defendant had been previously convicted of another capital felony or had been previously adjudicated delinquent in a juvenile proceeding for committing an offense that would be a capital felony if committed by an adult.
• the defendant had been previously convicted of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person or had been previously adjudicated delinquent in a juvenile proceeding for committing an offense that would be a Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person if the offense had been committed by an adult.
• the capital felony was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or effecting an escape from custody.
• the capital felony was committed while the defendant was engaged, or was an aider or abettor, in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit, any homicide, robbery, rape or a sex offense, arson, burglary, kidnapping, or aircraft piracy or the unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.
• the capital felony was committed for pecuniary gain.
• the capital felony was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function or the enforcement of laws.
• the capital felony was committed against a law-enforcement officer, employee of the Division of Adult Correction of the Department of Public Safety, jailer, fireman, judge or justice, former judge or justice, prosecutor or former prosecutor, juror or former juror, or witness or former witness against the defendant, while engaged in the performance of his official duties or because of the exercise of his official duty.
• the capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.
• the defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person by means of a weapon or device which would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person.
• the murder for which the defendant stands convicted was part of a course of conduct in which the defendant engaged and which included the commission by the defendant of other crimes of violence against another person or persons.
North Carolina is one of 31 states that have the death penalty, according to a fact sheet from the Death Penalty Information Center, which also lists the number of death row inmates as 154 — the sixth-highest in the nation.
While Judge David Lee found that Robson was properly represnted by his attorney, Patrick Currie, he also ordered the clerk to contact the N.C. Office of Indigent Defense Services to request second council be appointed.
Robson was charged in the killings eight days after Cassidys’ bodies were found inside a car on Lee Thee Church Road.
Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office previously told the Daily Journal the call was originally called in as a wreck to the N.C. State Highway Patrol. Upon arrival troopers discovered the bodies of two adults, a man and woman, inside the vehicle — along with a small child, who was restrained in a safety seat in the back, according to Gulledge.
When deputies eventually tracked Robson down, he was the passenger in a truck, according to a search warrant. As they tried to stop the vehicle, Robson allegedly fled on foot and was quickly apprehended.
He was initially charged with reckless driving, fleeing to elude arrest with a motor vehicle and resisting a public officer, then later with larceny of a firearm, possession of a stolen firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon. A week later, Robson was charged with assault with a deadly weapon in the presence of a minor and discharging a weapon into an occupied property.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 2.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.