Support Salvation Army Wildfire Relief

More details emerge in High Point cold case murder; suspect appears in court

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- In his first appearance Wednesday, David Wayne Scarborough first refused to respond to the judge's questions about whether he understood the gravity of the charges he faces.

Scarborough is charged with first-degree murder, arson, rape and kidnapping in the 1986 death of Zella McGee in High Point.

The judge told Scarborough he was a busy man but would sit there all day if they had to in order to get a response.

Scarborough then acknowledged the judge's questions. The suspect has no bond for the murder charge and a $1 million bond for the others.

The real story in the courtroom were the two rows of family members and friends who came to show their support, relieved an arrest was finally made in their grandmother's case.

McGee's daughters and grandchildren, now adults, were there. They said the court proceedings will be hard to sit through but are perhaps the beginning of some closure.

"Absolutely, we feel better he's behind bars. Any time you can get somebody who has killed and raped an 81-year-old lady? They're more likely to do that to anybody. We need to get him off the streets," said Lisa Gammons, McGee's youngest granddaughter.

Gammons was a freshman in college when her beloved grandmother was killed. She was supposed to be visiting with McGee that weekend but ended up staying at school with her friends.

"I didn't find out about it til 7 o'clock that Saturday morning. I was devastated. I could have been here. Maybe I could have stopped this from happening. I carried that guilt for a long time. I still do."

Kathy Johnson, another of McGee's granddaughters, said they plan to be at as many of Scarborough's court proceedings as possible. "She's not here to speak for herself; we're here to speak for her. Because he's evil. That's the face of evil as far as I'm concerned. We just have to be here."

Assistant Fire Chief Mike Levins was also in the courtroom. He and many other people have been reworking the case since 2014.

"We sat down as a team and we looked and dissected each piece of it and said where is our evidence now? Where does it need to go?"

He said they treated it as a new case, started at the beginning, reviewed evidence and re-interviewed witnesses and suspects.

They got help from the crime lab, evidence technicians, State Bureau of Investigation, insurance commission, coroner's office and neighbors.

"I got all the responding firefighters who responded that day and we questioned them just as if it was a brand new fire," Levins said. "And a couple of firefighters that day said you know what -- this has been haunting me for years."

Levins said a police officer had the foresight to resubmit the DNA for analysis a few years ago. With the state's backlog, it took a long time and a lot of phone calls. But police said DNA evidence is what eventually led them to Scarborough.

People think setting a fire destroys all evidence of a crime, Levins pointed out, "But then 30 years from now, you're walking down the street and somebody taps you on the shoulder and says, 'You're under arrest.'"

Scarborough's next court date is scheduled for November.