39-year-old Ben Privott was found stabbed to death around 2 a.m. on Friday.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY – The state will attempt to have a teenage boy tried as an adult Friday morning who stabbed the death of Benjamin Privott, New Hanover District Attorney Ben David said Tuesday.
Privott, 39, was found by his fiancée Sarah Rushing, 31, around 2 a.m. Friday morning in a yard near his home on the 700 block of Bracken Fern Road. He was stabbed in the chest and died on the scene.
During a news conference Tuesday morning, New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon announced that a 15-year-old boy had been detained and charged with first degree murder in Privott’s death. The teen is also accused of breaking into and breaking into a car and attempting an armed robbery.
“Our investigation showed that the youngster acted alone and we are currently not looking for anyone,” said McMahon.
The sheriff declined to name the juvenile, citing state law preventing officials from revealing the identities of juveniles charged with crimes.
McMahon also noted that on David’s advice, he would not post any information about how Privott and the accused killer got together.
“This (incident) was just random, pointless, insane,” McMahon said, describing Privott as “completely innocent.”
“There was nothing this man did that was illegal that was suspicious,” said McMahon. “He was just outside.”
For the first hours of the investigation, law enforcement officials thought Privott’s attacker might be someone he knew.
“Then, 24 hours later, we received additional evidence pointing us in the opposite direction,” said the sheriff’s spokesman, Lt. Jerry Brewer.
According to a prosecutor’s press release, the teenager appeared in a juvenile court for the first time on Tuesday morning.
“My office is requesting the court to bind the youth to the Supreme Court so he can be tried as an adult,” David said in the press release. “Until the youngster is brought to the Supreme Court, my office is (by law) prohibited from making further comments on the matter.”
David’s application is standard when it comes to first degree murder charges and juvenile defendants.
North Carolina law requires a hearing on a possible cause for first degree murder cases involving teenagers ages 13-15, said juvenile defense attorney Eric Zogry.
“If the court determines that there is a probable cause in the case of first degree murder, it will automatically be transferred to the adult system,” Zogry said. Little or marginal evidence is required as to the likely cause.
The law also shows mercy to young murderers. When juveniles are convicted of first degree murder, unlike their adult counterparts, they cannot be sentenced to death. The sentence is either life without parole or life with parole after 25 years.
The last time a youth took his case to an adult court in New Hanover County was the murder of delivery driver Zhen Bo Liu in 2012. At the time of Liu’s robbery and shooting, one of the six accused, Mustafaa Friend, was 15 years old old. A friend never went to court and eventually pleaded guilty to murder of the second degree. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Online friends of Privott – whom some referred to as “Colonel” – expressed their shock over the death of the real estate agent and famous local musician.
Privott’s playful side is evident in YouTube videos he posted in 2014. In one he’s dancing around planting a real estate sign in a garden, in another he’s jokingly giving “tips” on how to pose for a professional photo. In both cases, Privott’s signature curly hair, beard and glasses are on display.
A lot of messages posted on a neighborhood social networking site about how talented Privott was. Others expressed condolences to his family and fiancée, and some denounced Rushing’s independent arrest Friday night for marijuana possession.
Marijuana plants were found in the house the couple shared at 700 Bracken Fern Road, according to the arrest warrant. Rushing was booked in New Hanover County at 9:14 p.m. Friday for the crime of owning marijuana, making marijuana, and maintaining a controlled substance home. She is on bail for $ 25,000 and was released at 9:52 p.m.
It was not immediately known whether a date had been set for the suspect’s hearing.
The reporter FT Norton can be reached at 910-343-2070 or [email protected]