Jail phone calls add new wrinkle to Gastonia murder case

GASTONIA, N.C. — Prosecutors plan to use a jailhouse phone call that a woman made to her dad against her during her murder trial.

Investigators said the Gastonia woman’s boyfriend, Willie Breeden, shot her a year before she allegedly shot and killed him. The woman, Valencia McLean, was in court Monday for the murder charge.

One might expect a woman in McLean’s position to explain that she was a victim of domestic violence. But prosecutors said a recorded jail call indicates McLean knew Breeden was not a threat to her that day.

Attorneys will select a jury Tuesday morning to decide if McLean is guilty of murder after the shooting at their Gastonia home in September 2020.

Breeden was charged in 2019 with shooting her in the leg with a rifle, which is something McLean’s defense team was likely to bring up in her trial.

But on Monday, the prosecutor announced she plans to play a phone call McLean’s father made to her while she was in the Gaston County jail.

The prosecutor said in the call, McLean admits she told detectives her boyfriend was going upstairs to get his gun. McLean said she didn’t tell them that she hid the gun from Breeden before the fatal shooting.

“Everything a clients says on that phone call is and can be used against them,” defense attorney Brent Ratchford said.

Ratchford is not working on this case but has had several cases involving recorded jail calls. He said sometimes, these calls are more impactful to jurors than testimony on the stand.

“It’s not a prepared statement. It’s not a rehearsed statement. A lot of these phone calls are, like you say, from the heart,” he said.

Ratchford said often times, jury members presume they are hearing a defendant speak unfiltered. He said people on the line forget the calls are recorded.

“A lot of the times, the truth kind of comes out very quickly and sometimes, the truth does not always set you free,” he said.

Prosecutors said every phone call from jail begins with a recorded message warning calls are recorded and monitored.

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