WJTV News Channel 12 - Man charged in 1977 murder, rape in New Bern pleads guilty

Man charged in 1977 murder, rape in New Bern pleads guilty

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NEW BERN, N.C. -

The man accused of a murder that happened more than three decades ago pleaded guilty in Craven County Superior Court on Friday.

Andrew Adams was charged in connection with the 1977 murder and rape of Gwendolyn Antoinette Nelson.

District Attorney, Scott Thomas, says Adams admitted to grabbing Nelson by the neck, dragged her behind the F.R. Danyus School where he threw her down. Adams admitted that Nelson fought back when he preceded to hitting her in the head, raping her, and leaving her to die.  These are details, Nelson's daughter, Kindell Mitchell, who was four-years-old at the time had never heard. Mitchell's aunt, Kametrice Nelson, who was three-years-old, was also taken aback by the gruesome details. 

"To hear those kind of details which is something we have never had to listen to, so it's hard. Then to say you did it because you had the opportunity? He's heartless, he's mean. He's like an animal in the wild, he's not human," said Kametrice.

Adams pleaded guilty to second degree murder and rape. He's sentenced to life on both charges to run concurrently.

Mitchell says even after  hearing the details of how her mother was taken from her, Adam's life long sentences in prison, give her a little peace of mind. 

"I just continue to pray for him, that's all I can do.  If I wasn't a woman of God like I am, I probably would think the same way. That's all I can do,  just pray for  him," said Mitchell.

Adams was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of woman in New Hanover County in January of 2012.
It's was that case that helped the New Bern Police Department finally get a confession out of Adams for Nelson's 1977 murder.

“This very unusual, because in most cases officers who were involved in the investigation are no longer with the agency, may have passed, witnesses have moved and gone, [and] memories have faded.  I think what was very important in this case was to be able to get the DNA evidence. It gave us enough along with the additional information about this suspect, living and being in New Bern at this time to focus on him as a suspect," said Thomas.

Nelson's family says they appreciate all the people who were involved in helping solve her case.


--- Previous Story ---

A man accused of murdering a young mother nearly 35 years ago had his first day in court Friday.  New Bern Police charged 55 year old Andrew Bernard Adams of Wilmington last weekend for the 1977 rape and murder of Gwendolyn Nelson.

Kindell Mitchell waited nearly 35 years to see her mother's accused killer.

"He looks like he's a true demon, somebody that really don't have a care in the world,” she said.

She sat with family and friends as the bailiff brought Andrew Adams in front of the district court judge.  District Attorney Scott Thomas stood beside him and read the charges- one count first degree rape, one count of murder.

"It just broke my heart to actually see him,” said Mitchell.

On June 29, 1977, 17-year-old Gwen Nelson was found dead outside the cafeteria at F.R. Danyus School on West St. In New Bern.

The autopsy showed she died from blunt force trauma to the head.  Police investigated but never had a lead.  The case eventually went cold.

"I did have a grudge against the police department because everybody always told me that they just shut my mama's case down like she was- nothing every happened,” said Mitchell.

New Bern Police re-opened the case in 2006.  After pouring over the evidence, and re-interviewing people from 1977- police developed Adams as a suspect.  The 55 year old registered sex offender had served half his life in jail.  Last week Wilmington Police arrested him for the rape and murder of a woman who investigators say he buried in his backyard.

"We were comfortable at that time to move forward with the prosecution,” said DA Scott Thomas.

Prosecutors say they're ready to go to trial if necessary.  Adams could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of killing Gwen Nelson- something her daughter is still waiting for.

"Death penalty, that's what he need,” said Mitchell.  “But I know God got the death penalty for him."

Adams was transported back to the New Hanover County jail after his first appearance in Craven County District Court.  That's where he'll stay behind bars, without bond until his next court date.  His next administrative hearing for the 1977 case is set for February 3rd.



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