NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - A man has pleaded guilty to a rape and murder in Craven County that happened more than three decades ago.
Andre Bernard Adams was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences Friday morning for the rape and murder of Gwendolyn Nelson on June 28, 1977 in New Bern, said investigators. At 8:27 a.m. police were called to 622 West St. There they found the body of Nelson, naked and with multiple injuries, including multiple fractures to her skull. The police investigated at the time, but were unable to come up with solid leads. The case went cold for nearly 30 years. The victim was 17 years old at the time, and had just graduated from New Bern High School. She had a toddler daughter.
In 2006, New Bern police reopened the case. DNA collected at the crime scene was used to connect Adams to the crime. Adams was arrested in January 2012. Through investigative work, Adams confessed to the killing of Nelson.
In a Craven County court room, Adams feebly accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to two life sentences for his crimes.
Nelson's daughter was 4 years old at the time of the murder. Friday, Kindell Mitchell spoke passionately and at length about her mother and the trauma Adams has caused her family. Adams sat emotionless as Mitchell detailed how her family was afraid to let her be outside to long, for fear of losing her too.
Both district attorney Scott Thomas and the Nelson family had sharp words for Adams.
"I would describe Andrew Adams as a truly evil, violent dangerous criminal," said district attorney Thomas. "He has spent over half of his life in prison, already at the age of 57, and now he'll spend the rest of his natural life in prison."
"He's heartless," said Nelson's sister, Kametrice Nelson. "He's mean. He's like an animal in the wild. He's not human. It's not possible for someone to call him a human being. He's an animal, honestly."
During interrogations of Adams, Thomas said Adams described the reason for the attack and murder as ,"because I had the opportunity."
Adams was already sentenced to life in prison in October for a separate murder in Wilmington.
According to investigators, Adams murdered 24-year-old Laticia Scott, a Cape Fear Community College student, and buried her in his yard. Scott was last seen at Adam's home on Jan. 10, 2012, and her body was unearthed three days later.
Adams' defense team argued that the defendant was mentally retarded, which allowed him to avoid the death penalty.