HENDERSON CO., NC – A man gets life in prison for fatally stabbing a man in the neck and back and trying to blame it on his girlfriend.
It only took the jury 2 hours to return guilty verdicts against James Benjamin Charles for First Degree Murder, Felony Larceny of a Motor Vehicle, and Felony Possession of Stolen Property.
Charles, 49, formerly of Courtney Lynn Lane in Flat Rock, was given a life sentence, without parole, and an additional 33 month sentence for the larceny conviction.
Charles and his then girlfriend had spent all their money on crack cocaine for at least two days and needed more cash to buy more drugs, according to District Attorney Greg Newman.
The two met up with Michael Brown in Hendersonville and they drove to Charles’ trailer.
Charles and his girlfriend were in the back seat.
Charles and Brown argued over the use of the vehicle and Brown pulled out a “wad” of cash when they got to Charles’ home, according to the D.A.
Charles tried to take the money from Brown.
Charles reached around and stabbed Brown in the neck from the backseat, according to the report.
Brown was able to get out of the vehicle, but Charles stabbed him in the back while struggling in the driveway.
Charles left in the vehicle and left his girlfriend behind.
Brown was pronounced dead at the scene.
Charles drove to Pace St. in Hendersoville and hid his vehicle in a lot where he paid someone $20 to clean it.
He got rid of the knife, phone and car and had someone take him to his girlfriend’s home near Old Spartanburg Hwy.
The D.A. says he woke up her neighbors at 1:30 a.m. and asked them for a ride and a change of clothes.
The neighbor gave him a clean shirt, but refused to give him a ride.
He woke up her neighbors at 1:30 a.m. and asked them for a ride and a change of clothes. according to the D.A.
Charles was arrested on Upward Rd the next morning.
The D.A. says he did not give a statement to the Sheriff’s Department, but did testify at trial.
He pointed the finger at his former girlfriend, Wendy Barnwell, and tried to explain how it was her, and not him, that stabbed Brown.
“Ben Charles is a dangerous man and I am very pleased that our jury found him guilty of first degree murder. He is unfit to be in our community or in any community in the US,” said the District Attorney. “His criminal record is lengthy and consists of prior armed robberies and other thefts. He is a thief and a killer,” added Newman. Mr. Charles came to Western North Carolina to be in a half- way house in Asheville on his 2000 armed bank robbery conviction in a Minnesota federal court. Upon his release from the federal half-way house, he moved to Henderson County to be near Ms. Barnwell, who also relocated here from the same half-way house.
“In less than six months, Mr. Charles obtained a job, a house, a car, a phone, a girlfriend and a murder charge,” said Newman. “I very much appreciate the work of our Sheriff’s Department in their investigation, as well as the service of our jurors who listened to a significant amount of evidence during the last two weeks. The victim’s family came from as far away as Connecticut and they are satisfied that justice was achieved. Our people continue to support the rule of law and that is why we enjoy a healthy quality of life,” said Newman.
Charles gave notice that he will appeal the conviction, according to the D.A.