Stories of the year: 5 killed in 3 incidents across Richmond County

By: William R. Toler - Editor

Five Richmond County residents lost their lives in three acts of violence in 2017.

Steven William Smith, 40, of Jackson Springs, is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and two of her family members on Feb. 12.

According to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Smith shot and killed 38-year-old Latasha Devora Durham, her mother, 68-year-old Gloria Jean Durham, and her brother, 42-year old Samuel Damon Durham, at their Robinson Avenue home in Ellerbe late that Sunday morning.

Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. said there were also three children in the home at the time, but they were unharmed.

Investigators say Smith was apprehended by the Moore County Sheriff’s Office and Carthage Police Department shortly after 12:30 p.m. that day — about half an hour after deputies were dispatched to the scene.

He was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count each of felony breaking and/or entering, having a fictitious driver’s license and resisting a public officer. Jail records show he is also facing a misdemeanor charge of assault on a female in Montgomery County.

Tierell Martin, 20, was gunned down outside the Circle B convenience store in Hamlet around 12:15 a.m. June 28.

Investigators say seven shots were fired but only one struck Martin, who died at the scene.

A suspect had initially been charged in the fatal shooting, but video evidence proved he was not the perpetrator and he was released from custody later that morning.

Martin had just been released from jail on June 19 after serving nearly two weeks on a June 8 conviction of possession of stolen goods, according to records with the N.C. Department of Public Safety Division of Adult Correction. Richmond County Jail records show he had been behind bars since Oct. 17, 2016 and that he was served warrants four times while in jail.

The same day he was convicted, several other charges — possession of a firearm by a felon, felony conspiracy and robbery with a dangerous weapon — were dismissed by the district attorney’s office, court records show.

Detective Capt. Randy Dover said Friday that there still has been no arrest in the case, which he says is gang related.

Investigators ask that anyone with information pertaining to the case contact the Hamlet Police Department at 910-582-2551 or Richmond County Crime Stoppers at 910-997-5454.

While responding to what they thought was a wreck, troopers with the N.C. State Highway Patrol discovered the bodies of Joseph and Katherine Cassidy — along with an unharmed small child — in their car on the edge of the wood line on Lee Thee Church Road in August.

Investigators determined the identity of their supsect, 44-year-old Christopher Robson, and eventually spotted him in a pickup truck. When deputies attempted to stop the truck, they say Robson fled on foot but was quickly apprehended.

Robson is charged with: two open counts of murder; larceny of a firearm; possession of a stolen firearm; possession of a firearm by a felon; assault with a deadly weapon in the presence of a minor; and discharging a weapon into an occupied property; reckless driving; fleeing to elude arrest with a motor vehicle; and resisting a public officer.

He was also recently charged with a misdemeanor count of simple affray following a jailhouse brawl with other inmates.

Both Smith and Robson remain in the Richmond County jail with no bond. No court date is scheduled for charges related to either murders.

All suspects facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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



William R. Toler



The Daily Journal is reviewing Richmond County’s top 10 stories of 2017. These are the stories we think had the largest impact on the community.