Accomplice says movie-obsessed friend shot Jonesville officer

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YADKINVILLE, N.C. (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL) – Two of three men charged with the 1996 slaying of a Jonesville police officer appeared in court Tuesday, with one of the accused taking the stand to relay a tale of obsession with bank robber movies, a real-life interstate crime spree and the coldblooded killing of Sgt. Gregory Martin.

Brian Eugene Whittaker, 37, of Cape Coral, Fla., unexpectedly took the stand in Superior Court at the Yadkin County Courthouse during a hearing for fellow defendant and childhood friend Scott Vincent Sica, 36, of Cape Coral, on whether Sica should face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in Martin’s fatal shooting.

Sica, Whittaker and Marc Oldroyd Oldroyd, 40, of Rockwood, Tenn., are charged with first-degree murder, as well as other crimes, in the death of Martin, who was found shot dead Oct. 5, 1996, after conducting a traffic stop along Interstate 77 in Yadkin County.

Sica was arrested Oct. 3 in Florida, then was extradited to the custody of Yadkin County deputies on Oct. 12. He made his initial court appearance later that day and was indicted Oct. 29 on charges of first-degree murder, attempted armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and two counts of possession of stolen goods. He returned to court Monday.

Under questioning by District Attorney Tom Horner, Whittaker recalled the machinations of a pair of robberies in Florida and West Virginia. He also revealed the details of other crimes the trio had pondered to finance a bold, free-wheeling and nomadic lifestyle influenced by movies such as “Heat,” a 1995 film about bank robbers starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer, and “Point Break, ” a 1991 movie about extreme-sports bank robbers starring Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey and Patrick Swayze.

Most dramatically, Whittaker described the events leading to the shooting of Martin, implicating Sica, 36, as the lone shooter in a crime that went unsolved for more than 16 years.

Whittaker and Oldroyd were indicted Monday, with Whittaker making his initial court appearance Tuesday morning before Judge Edgar B. Gregory. Whittaker was asked if he understood his rights, the charges facing him and the potential penalties. After Whittaker acknowledged he was aware of his standing, Gregory declined to set a bond, and Whittaker, who is being represented by Winston-Salem attorney David Friedman, was removed from the courtroom. His next court appearance was scheduled for March 25.

Eyebrows were raised when he returned later that afternoon at the behest of Horner to testify during Sica’s Rule 24 hearing to determine if he could face the death penalty. Sica’s attorney –Dan Dolan of Winston-Salem – attempted to postpone the hearing and challenge the state’s move to call witnesses, citing the freshness of the additional charges made against his client a day earlier.

Gregory opted to move forward, noting the hearing had been scheduled in the fall. Whittaker was preceded on the stand by N.C. Highway Patrolman E. Van Tate, who first arrived on the scene minutes after Martin was shot. The two served together on the Mount Airy police force years earlier.

But it was Whittaker – who said he had struck no plea deal with the prosecution and had no prior conversation with Horner – who kept the attention of the half-filled courtroom.

His hands cuffed while wearing a bright yellow T-shirt and jeans, Whittaker recalled how he came to know Oldroyd through his high school friend Sica and gave the details of an August 1996 armed robbery of a Home Depot in North Fort Myers, Fla.

That crime resulted in $35,000 in loot, enough to fund a road trip up the Florida panhandle, into Louisiana and onward to Minnesota before they began to return south, Whittaker testified. It was while staying in dorms at Belmont-Abbey College in Belmont (a hookup, Whittaker said, was provided by an unnamed uncle of Oldroyd’s who worked for the school) that the trio began to run out of cash. This prompted them to begin seeking new ways to continue their drifting way of life, he said.

Whittaker said the scheme was to steal a truck in West Virginia that would serve as a getaway vehicle during an upcoming robbery. After securing that truck, they targeted a restaurant along Interstate 77 in North Carolina.

Whittaker and Sica awaited outside the establishment in the stolen truck while Oldroyd drove ahead to a predetermined site, the plan being for the trio to regroup after the robbery and dump the stolen vehicle. That late-night robbery never occurred, as the open back door that initially caught Sica’s attention was closed by employees performing cleanup work.

Whittaker and Sica, still in the stolen vehicle, passed a police cruiser while driving back onto the interstate. Whittaker said the squad car made a U-turn and pulled the pair over. Whittaker said he inserted the .357 magnum revolver he was carrying into a small split dividing the two front seats while Sica hid a 9-mm handgun with a 15-round magazine inside his pants and underneath his shirt.

Because the two men had no identification and only a handful of dealer documents inside the truck’s glovebox, Martin had the pair exit the vehicle – Whittaker from the driver’s door, Sica from the opposite side – and stand behind the truck. The officer first searched the driver’s side before looking in the passenger-side door.

Whittaker said Martin had his back turned and was looking at a duffle bag (which contained masks and other items to be used during the robbery) in the front floor of the truck when Sica opened fire from 8 to 10 feet away.

“He picked the bag up,” Whittaker said, pausing as his tears began to flow. “He picked up the bag and started to open it – and that was it. Scott pulled his gun up, and he just started firing.”

Whittaker went on to describe how the group reconvened in Belmont before splitting up. Whittaker and Sica lived with family and friends in Tennessee for some time before going their separate ways. Whittaker and Sica both were incarcerated in 1998: Whittaker for the Home Depot robbery, and Sica for a pair of bank robberies.

The trio was brought together in the unlikely destination of Yadkin County following a joint investigation by, among others, the Jonesville Police Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Elkin Police Department.

Dolan spent the final hour of the hearing questioning Whittaker on his testimony before Gregory called it a day. Court is to resume at 9:30 AM Wednesday morning.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal