Man takes plea in domestic violence death

By: By William R. Toler - Editor

ROCKINGHAM — A man charged with murder in a 2015 domestic violence homicide has been sentenced to prison on a lesser charge.

Karl Mathis Purcell, 56, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court on Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter in the death of 35-year-old Rebecca Priest McPherson, court records show.

Superior Court Judge Richard Brown accepted the deal and consolidated a related charge of possession of a firearm by a felon. Purcell was sentenced to serve between seven years and nine years and five months in state prison.

Purcell shot McPherson in the head with a handgun shortly after midnight on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, at the mobile home they shared on Knight Street in Hoffman. (Records also show Purcell with an address in Carthage.)

The victim was rushed to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Richmond County sheriff’s deputies initially charged Purcell with three counts of possession of a firearm by a felon — with warrants stating he was caught with a Norinco 9mm semi-automatic handgun, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun and a Norinco SKS 7.62 rifle — and attempted murder.

He was jailed without bond on the attempted murder charge and has a $100,000 secured bond on the firearm possession charges.

McPherson did not survive and was pronounced dead at the hospital the following night.

Deputies upgraded the attempted murder charge to first-degree murder the next day and he was denied bond during his first court appearance.

The following month, while in jail, deputies said Purcell “verbally communicated his desire to eliminate” a witness in the case between Dec. 4 and 19 of 2015. Investigators were made aware of the conspiracy by someone with firsthand knowledge of Purcell’s intent — the would-be hitman — and they began an investigation.

Purcell was charged with common-law solicitation of another to commit a felony, which was dropped as part of the plea deal.

He is currently being held at Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury.

In 2005, Purcell was convicted on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury in Richmond County and felony breaking and entering in Moore County, according to records with the N.C. Department of Public Safety Division of Adult Correction.

As a convicted felon, Purcell is prohibited from owning firearms under state law.

Sixty-four North Carolina residents lost their lives to alleged partner and family violence in 2014, according to the N.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Prior to McPherson’s death, the agency reported 42 domestic homicides that year.

Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]


By William R. Toler