• Father, son arrested in connection with Newton man's slaying

    By: Dave Faherty

    Updated:

    CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. - A 16-year-old is accused of robbing and killing his cousin, then setting a house on fire to cover up the crime. On Thursday, police announced that a father and son have been charged in connection with the crime.

    Riley Henderson appeared before a judge Wednesday morning after being charged with murder in the shooting death of Wesley Bruner. 

    "I just want everybody to be in prayer for all of us. I don't know what else to say just prayer. It's a tragedy," said Bruner's sister, Tona Mabe.

    Lennon Henderson

    (Riley Henderson)

    On Thursday, officials said Nicholas and Nolan Smith have been charged with accessory after the fact and are accused of hiding evidence and the murder weapon.

    Nick Smith instructed and assisted Henderson with starting the fire to cover up the homicide, according to court papers. His son later sold the weapon that was used in the crime for methamphetamine.

     

     

    Firefighters found Bruner's remains Saturday while battling the fire at the home along Business 321. An autopsy revealed that he had been shot and killed prior to the fire.

    [PAST COVERAGE: Investigators believe Catawba County deadly fire was accidental]

    A search warrant showed that deputies found signs of a break-in after firefighters discovered flammable liquid in a container in the kitchen.

    Authorities believe the motive was robbery.

    "We believe someone set the fire once they shot him,” Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid. “We know he did have a large amount of cash that he had come into, and we haven't been able to find that."

    Henderson's sister was in court Wednesday and doesn't believe her brother could be a killer.

    "I couldn't believe it. That's my little brother. He's 16 and he's scared," sister Bailey Henderson said.

    "He'd go over there every other day," said Henderson's friend, Tyler Roberts. "They were friends. They would sit together. They were really friendly. They were family."

    Wesley Bruner Jr.

    Family members said Henderson lived at Bruner's home for several months and the two were close.

    The case has divided family members, who are both mourning Bruner's death and now his cousin's arrest.

    "It's a tragedy. It's gonna tear the family further apart," Mabe said.

    "He's a really sweet caring kid. He'll do anything for anybody... I know it wasn't him," Bailey Henderson said.

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