Manion has been challenging the credibility of the two witnesses since her client’s July 30, 2014 bond hearing, adding in a motion filed in September that Wilson was “being deprived of his liberty based on the false statements of two career criminals.”
The murder of Gerald Williamson was more than two weeks old when Officer David Rosser encountered Abdullah Kindle at a motel on Ardale Drive on March 17. As Detective Chris Wolanin noted in an affidavit, Kindle “had been arrested but not charged with narcotic violations” when he gave a statement to the police implicating Nathan Wilson in Williamson’s murder.
Wolanin did not identify Kindle by name in the affidavit, calling him a “confidential informant” and arguing that confidentiality was required because Kindle feared physical reprisal and exposure “would negate any future use of this source” by the police. However, Kindle was publicly identified in the defense counsel’s September 2014 motion. And Stockdale acknowledged in an interview that he had planned to call Kindle as a witness at trial, which would have effectively ended whatever usefulness he held to the police as an informant.
The Wolanin affidavit indicated that Kindle was cooperating with the police as a show of good faith “in order to gain a favorable recommendation of leniency in pending criminal charges.” Those charges, which predated his March 17 run-in with Officer Rosser, included possession of marijuana, trespassing, communicating threats and assault on a female. Kindle had previously served a one-year prison sentence for selling crack cocaine to an undercover officer.
Manion said in an email to Triad City Beat that she told Judge Logan T. Burke at her client’s July 2014 bond hearing “that Abdullah Kindle had told me on three to four occasions in the presence of my private investigator that he was making the story up to keep Officer Rosser from arresting him for possession of drugs, which they found on his person.”
Kindle could not be reached for comment. His last known address is on Hay Street in High Point, but a man who came to the door last week said Kindle had been gone for two months.
The police also obtained a statement from Sarah McCullough, a habitual felon with more than 20 charges of obtaining property by false pretense and similar offenses. One caper, committed in Forsyth County, involved approaching a customer in a Walmart parking lot, falsely indicating that she was an employee with the ability to get the customer a discount on a TV, and then taking the customer’s money without delivering the TV.
McCullough was in jail awaiting trial on March 24 when she asked to speak with a detective.
“When Sarah McCullough contacted a police detective and wanted to make a statement implicating Nathan, they told her that her name did not appear on the sign-in sheet at the club that evening,” Manion said in an email. “Sarah McCullough weighs about 250 pounds and looks like a man. [She] has long dreads and is at least 6 feet tall. If she had been at the club that night no one would have missed her; they all knew her.”
After McCullough provided a statement implicating Nathan Wilson in the murder, the High Point police put in a call to their counterparts in Durham, asking them to reduce McCullough’s bond, Manion said. With her bond dropped, Manion said McCullough fled the state. McCullough is now serving a state prison sentence in North Carolina for various fraud-related charges.
Manion said she brought a witness to the July 30 bond hearing who was prepared to testify that McCullough was lying about having witnessed Gerald Williamson’s murder, but that Judge Burke said it wouldn’t make any difference in determining the bond amount. The judge set Wilson’s bond at $750,000.
“I told the court that this witness was with Sarah McCullough at the time Gerald was shot,” Manion recounted. “They were in a sweepstakes internet café in Kernersville.”
Manion argued in a September 2014 motion: “The state’s sole evidence is that of two witnesses who claim to be eyewitnesses to the shooting. Neither individual was present at the scene of the shooting and the state has made no attempt to corroborate their claims of being present.”
Last November, Manion complained to Triad City Beat: “Right now, they don’t have probable cause to hold my client.” She added at the time: “It’s very upsetting to me that the police don’t want to corroborate their witnesses’ statements. I’m the sort of attorney that I get out on the street and talk to people. The police haven’t even tried to talk to these people.”
Manion elaborated in a recent email: “Sarah’s own mother told me that Sarah was not at the club that night. Sarah told the police that she went to the club by herself and that she walked there from her niece’s apartment. The police never interviewed her niece, but we did and she said that Sarah lied; she was not at her apartment.”
Michael Rich, an associate professor at Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, said — assuming what Manion said is true: “It doesn’t sound like good police work, and it doesn’t seem surprising that the case was dismissed.”
Stockdale told Triad City Beat that Kindle and McCullough never told him that they were not at the club on the night of the shooting, but he added that McCullough “had credibility issues with me based on her previous criminal history.”
At this point, Stockdale said he doesn’t know whether Kindle or McCullough actually witnessed Williamson’s murder, but up to the time the DNA returned without a positive match to Nathan Wilson, he gave credence to their statements.
“They knew information that would either mean they were present or they had spoken to people who were present,” Stockdale said. “They knew facts about the case that the average Joe wouldn’t know.”
Manion countered that the two witnesses’ familiarity with the case didn’t make them credible.
“The reason that Abdullah knew where on Gerald’s body there were gunshot wounds is because half of the people at the club went to the hospital right after the shooting and within an hour it was all over town as to how many times Gerald was shot and where he was shot,” she said.
Rich, who has written extensively about the use of criminal informants by police, said there’s nothing unlawful about police exercising their discretion to not arrest an informant in exchange for information helpful in solving another case, as long as the deal is disclosed to the defendant.
“In terms of an ethical problem, that depends a lot on whether the prosecutor and the police officer believed the informant was telling the truth,” Rich said. “There’s a saying — and I’m probably going to mangle it —that to catch the devil you don’t work with angels. The idea is generally, from their standpoint, what else do you expect them to do?”