LUMBERTON — A Lumberton man accused of instigating the 2007 killing of Chad Allen Arnette was sentenced Tuesday to a 30-day suspended jail sentence and two years on probation — a punishment Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Tally called “worse” than the maximum possible two months in jail.
Adam Rozier, 28, and his roommate William Andrew Floyd were both charged in the Feb. 14 fight that led to Arnette’s death. Floyd was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in September 2011 for stabbing Arnette, who lived in Rowland, in the parking lot of Big Lots on Roberts Avenue after Arnette texted Floyd’s girlfriend.
Rozier, who was originally charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, pleaded guilty in December to misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon and his sentencing was delayed. In addition to his suspended sentence and time on supervised probation, Rozier will pay Arnette’s family $10,000 restitution as well as fees to transfer his probation to Virginia, where his job sometimes takes him.
The sentence was delivered in front of about 20 of Rozier and Arnette’s friends and family after nearly three hours of tears, head-shaking, eye-rolling and debate over what exactly happened on Feb. 14.
“I don’t want this to go on,” Tally said to Arnette’s family. “If it were in my power to heal your hearts I’d do so.”
Arnette’s mother, Debra asked her to give Rozier the maximum sentence.
“We cannot put into words the pain that we have been through in the past seven years,” she said. “… A part of our lives was murdered.” Debra Arnette said her son, who was then 21 years old, “could not stand for any one to be angry at him,” and met Floyd to resolve their differences.
Arnette’s Aunt, Kim Lindsay Fipps, also spoke to the judge through tears, claiming her nephew’s death was one of too many crimes going unpunished. Tally stopped Fipps mid-sentence, saying that was “simply untrue.”
“Today, all I’ve heard is excuses,” Fipps said before the sentence was announced.
After Arnette’s death, his family established the The Chad Allen Arnette Families and Friends of Murder and Homicide Victims Support Group, which holds a candlelight vigil each August to remember victims and raise awareness of violent crimes.
Tally concluded the trial by saying Arnette’s family needs to accept “what the law provides” and that probation is not “a kiss” compared with serving time in jail.
Before the sentencing, Rozier’s attorney, Gayla Biggs, called witnesses to defend Rozier’s character, saying he has matured since the fight and has not been charged with any other crimes.
While Assistant District Attorney Tony Berk, who prosecuted the case, contended Arnette might be alive if not for Rozier’s actions, Biggs argued the fight would not have occurred if not for Arnette.
According to Berk, the conflict began when Arnette texted Floyd’s girlfriend of seven years, Ashlee Hardin. Hardin and Arnette had been friends since day care, Berk said.
Floyd and Rozier were out drinking at the time, as Rozier’s then-girlfriend had broken up with him that day, which was Valentine’s Day.
Floyd and Rozier went to Christopher McGirt’s home, and were later joined by Hardin. McGirt, who accompanied them to the fight, gave his testimony in August 2011.
According to Berk, when Floyd saw the text message, he threatened to kill Arnette if he didn’t stop contacting Hardin.
Biggs contended Arnette’s text was more harassing than “what’s up?” as Berk painted it for the crowd. The two parties do not agree over whether Arnette or Floyd suggested meeting in front of Big Lots.
Arnette arrived first at the parking lot with Lee Anthony Hunt at about 11:30 p.m. Floyd, Rozier and McGirt followed shortly afterward. Arnette, who had been practicing T-ball with his younger nephew, grabbed a T-ball bat from his truck. After some arguing, Floyd took one of two 10-inch knives out of his car, Berk said.
According to Berk, the men agreed to let the altercation go and as Arnette headed back to his truck, Rozier approached him.
Arnette began to hit Rozier with the bat and Rozier punched him four times before being knocked down, Rozier told detectives in a statement upon his arrest. Floyd and McGirt came over and McGirt took the bat, breaking it in half. Then, according to Berk, Arnette said he had been stabbed.
Arnette died of internal bleeding about a mile from the fight as he was trying to drive himself to the hospital. While he was driving, his truck jumped the curb, crashing into a furniture store. Hunt, who was in the passenger seat, was uninjured.
Later that night, Rozier and Floyd drove by the scene of the crash and were spotted by Hunt and Lumberton police Officer Jonathan Smith, who knew Floyd, according to Berk.
Floyd was originally charged with second-degree murder. His charge was changed to voluntary manslaughter along with Rozier’s when Floyd was sentenced to three years in prison, Biggs said.
Rozier was first tried in 2011 but the 12-member jury was unable to reach a consensus and a mistrial was declared.
Arnette’s mother, Debra, declined to comment on the sentencing, saying she wanted people to know the punishment Rozier received but that she’d “just as soon leave [the case] alone.”