February 21, 2024
A screenshot of Kinston police bodycam footage shows Dionate Whitson, a long-sought suspect in the 2020 murder of an Asheville teenager.

A screenshot of Kinston police bodycam footage shows Dionate Whitson, a long-sought suspect in the 2020 murder of an Asheville teenager.

ASHEVILLE — A murder suspect in the 2020 shooting death of an Asheville teen, arrested in Kinston after alluding capture for nearly three years, is back in Buncombe County awaiting court appearances for the deaths of two individuals.

Dionate Whitson, 21, was arrested during a traffic stop Aug. 10 on U.S. 70 West in Kinston, according to a news release from the Kinston Police Department. Members of the Kinston P.D., the United States Marshals Carolinas Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office assisted in his arrest.

Having been extradited to Asheville, Whitson is now being held in the Buncombe County Detention Facility under no bond, according to an online jail database.

On July 9, 2020, four months before Whitson allegedly shot and killed Asheville teen Teylyn McAlpin, police say Whitson was recklessly driving a 2019 Nissan on Meadow Road when he “unintentionally caused the death of (Lila) Jo Murray,” according to court documents obtained by the Citizen Times Sept. 7.

Five days later, Whitson was charged with reckless driving to endanger, misdemeanor death by vehicle, driving without an operator’s license, along with various other vehicle-related charges.

Murray’s daughter, Laura Murray, said her father was driving her 87-year-old mother to an eye appointment when Whitson hit them head-on at a high rate of speed. Both cars were totaled “terribly,” Murray said, and her mother died from her injuries at Mission Hospital.

Lila Jo Murray, 87, was a substitute teacher in Haywood County for over 40 years. She died due to injuries sustained in vehicle collision on July 9, 2020.

Lila Jo Murray, 87, was a substitute teacher in Haywood County for over 40 years. She died due to injuries sustained in vehicle collision on July 9, 2020.

“My mother was a lovely, Christian woman, who even in the back of an ambulance asked the paramedics on the condition of the other driver,” Laura Murray told the Citizen Times Sept. 7. “Because that was her. She was always praying for somebody else.”

Lifelong residents of Canton, Lila Jo and Leroy Murray had been married 66 years and only lived outside the city while Leroy was in the Air Force for six years, which included a tour in the Korean War. Lila Jo “loved children,” her daughter said, and was a substitute teacher in Haywood County for 40 years. Leroy suffered broken bones and a broken sternum from the accident, Laura said, but is still alive today at 90 years old.

“If she was on the other side of this and she knew it was just an 18-year-old boy who did this, and then if she knew all the other stuff with it, she would still forgive him,” Murray said of her mother.

Whitson is set to appear in court Sept. 29 for his misdemeanor death by vehicle and other associated charges. He previously had a Sept. 12 court date for his first-degree murder charge, but after his case was indicted to Buncombe County Superior Court on Aug. 28, the district attorney’s office must set a new day in court for Whitson, according to the criminal clerk’s office.

More: Update: Man charged with 1st-degree murder in Sept. 2 West Asheville shooting arrested

More: Man charged with 2nd-degree murder in death of Asheville man found in Candler

Teen’s mother: ‘What is justice?’

Now that her son’s alleged killer has been arrested, Javelin Duncan said people have asked her if she feels her family has justice.

“I will feel like I will never have justice over the simple fact that I feel like I’m doing a life sentence already,” Duncan told the Citizen Times Sept. 7. “Yes, Dionate will be alive, he can speak to his family. But me and my family, we’ve been doing a life sentence because my son’s not here, his daughter doesn’t have a father, my kids don’t have a sibling, his friends don’t have a friend. The day he got killed, we started doing a death sentence. So, what really is justice?”

The Citizen Times previously reported that the Asheville Police Department responded to calls of shots fired at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 28, 2020, near the Montford baseball field. Officers found McAlpin, who was 17, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and provided aid until paramedics arrived, a police spokesperson said at the time. McAlpin was transferred to Mission Hospital, where he died due to his gunshot wounds.

APD charged Whitson, who was then 18, and another male, then age 16, for McAlpin’s death. The 16-year-old, whose name has been withheld because of state juvenile law, was arrested in December 2020.

Teylin McAlpin's mother, Javelin Duncan, says she wants her day in court with a suspect in her son's killing.

Teylin McAlpin’s mother, Javelin Duncan, says she wants her day in court with a suspect in her son’s killing.

“What I’d like to know is why my son is dead. That’s what I’d like to come out of it,” Duncan said regarding Whitson’s impending murder case. “They were friends. There’s a lot of questions that I’d like to ask him.”

Duncan said she is holding a candlelight vigil on McAlpin’s birthday, Sept. 12, around 7:15 p.m. at Montford baseball field. The public is welcome, she said.

More: Trial date tentatively set in Buncombe County lawsuit against Wanda Greene

Ryley Ober is the Public Safety Reporter for Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. News tips? Email Ryley at rober@gannett.com. Please support local, daily journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Murder fugitive extradited to Asheville, facing charges for two deaths

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