CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The man on trial for killing a beloved newspaper delivery man in uptown Charlotte was found guilty Monday morning inside a Mecklenburg County courtroom.
The jury reached a verdict just before noon. Roger Best was found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted robbery with a weapon and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The verdict brings a mandatory life sentence.
The jurors got the case around 3:45 p.m. Friday, but since they had several charges to consider and had a question for the judge, their deliberations resumed Monday.
The evidence had been overwhelming -- starting with body camera from the officer who had recognized that it was his friend Walter “Wes” Scott and the gun as well as the DNA that pointed to Best as the killer.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Best killed Scott three years ago in uptown.
Best, 25, was allegedly trying to rob Scott as he was delivering papers around 2:20 a.m. Detectives said Best shot Scott, but that the 65-year-old was able to shoot Best before he died.
Scott, who lived in Lancaster, South Carolina, delivered newspapers in Charlotte for decades and many people in uptown knew him and loved him.
After the jury returned the guilty verdict, Scott’s daughter Shawnee Scott addressed Best, saying, “You have changed our life in the worst way.”
Throughout the trial, Scott’s family sat quietly, but they said it hurt.
“We sat in trial and watched our father died, over and over and over again,” Shawnee Scott said.
She said their family got through the pain by focusing on her father and not the young man who had changed their lives in the worst possible way.
Best turned to Scott’s family and mumbled one thing before he left to live his life behind bars.
“I accept the punishment -- life -- but at least I’m still living,” Best said.
Shawnee Scott said she heard what Best said, but she doesn’t believe that is what is going to happen while he is in prison.
“To me, I don’t think that’s what’s going to be happening,” Shawnee Scott said. “I think his legacy’s going to die in there and I hope he finds humanity in there.”
The manager of the Publix store on South Boulevard described an encounter with a shoplifter in a hoodie several days before the murder.
“He had his hand in his right pocket, and he pulled it out and showed me his pistol, his gun,” manager Brittan Ferguson said. “He didn't point it at me, but he told me I needed to back off.”
A detective said he made a connection between the robbery at the Publix and the murder.
“What, if any, conclusion did you come to?” a prosecutor asked CMPD Sgt. G.T. Willis.
“That Roger Best was my suspect in the robbery at Publix,” Willis said.
Victim’s son takes stand, video of shooting aftermath played in court
Prosecutors introduced their case by introducing the jury to Scott, who delivered papers for more than 40 years.
“In the moments before his death he made his last newspaper delivery ever,” prosecutor Terra Varnes said.
The first witness, Scott‘s son, broke down as he described the last time he saw his father.
“He was with my daughter. She’s 3 now. After the shift, he spent some time with her after and that’s the last time we ever saw him,” Tristin Turner said.
Body camera video from the first officer to get to Scott was played in court.
“Wes, Wes, who shot him?!” Officer David Nance can be heard saying. “That’s Wes, man! That’s the paper delivery guy! I’ve known him for years, man. Let’s go ahead and get it roped off."
Scott’s family left the courtroom before the video was played.
In closing arguments, Best’s attorney suggested that police had found Best and stopped looking for Scott’s real killer.
Prosecutor Bill Bunting said Scott, who was a constable in South Carolina, had made the ultimate sacrifice when he managed to fire back and hit Best.
“With his final act, Wes insured that no one else would suffer the same fate at the hands of this defendant that he did,” said Bunting.
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