GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Two Piedmont Triad men serving life sentences on murder charges are going to walk out of prison next week.
The North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission announced Tuesday that two inmates previously identified for release had their dates with freedom: Tony Allen Walker on Sunday and Christopher E. Cook on Monday.
Walker had been found guilty of first-degree murder by a Guilford County Superior Court jury on Oct. 17, 1990.
Cook had pleaded guilty in April 1995 on charges of second-degree murder in Randolph County.
They were the latest in a series of releases for persons sentenced for crimes committed before Oct. 1, 1994, and they qualified under the commission’s Mutual Agreement Parole Program.
Cook’s impending release had been announced by the commission in October, but it is unclear when Walker had been cleared through MAPP.
North Carolina abolished parole in cases involving murder and rape as of Oct. 1, 1994, and the commission is charged with considering the parole of offenders who were sentenced under guidelines before that date.
Dozens from the Piedmont Triad have been evaluated for release, and sometimes completing the detailed requirements of MAPP can take months and years before release is scheduled.
The Walker case
Walker, now 68, was convicted of shooting his girlfriend in the head and killing her in what was his second trial after a judge declared a mistrial in May 1990, court records show. Walker later was denied release and a new trial by the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Mary Sue Whitaker, then 27, was found shot at the Motel Six off Interstate 85 in Greensboro on Feb. 10, 1989. Walker, a resident of Julian, argued that Whitaker had taken her own life, the News & Record reported.
The investigation was marred by questions about the analysis and techniques used by the Greensboro Police Department, which led to the original mistrial, but the jury ignored those details in finding Walker guilty.
Superior Court Judge Howard R. Greeson Jr. had denied two motions to dismiss the charges and another motion to declare a second mistrial.
Walker appealed the case to the North Carolina Supreme Court, seeking a vacated sentence based on an absence of sufficient evidence, evidentiary errors, errors in instruction to the jury and the judge’s denial of two motions to dismiss.
On Nov. 19, 1992, Associate Justice I. Beverly Lake, writing for the court, said justices found adequate evidence to pursue a first-degree murder charge and that the court had acted properly in denying the motions to dismiss and the motion for a mistrial.
“We find that the defendant’s trial was free of prejudicial error,” Lake wrote.
But Associate Justice John Webb entered a lengthy dissent in the case, saying that a new trial was in order.
“The evidence against the defendant was not strong,” Webb wrote. “I believe the erroneous admission of hearsay testimony of bad acts by the defendant creates a reasonable possibility that a different result would have been reached if the error had not been made.”
Walker has no other criminal record of incarceration as an adult.
The Cook case
Cook, now 55, pleaded guilty and testified against his cousin, Terry Mickey, in the murder of Mickey’s wife, Melissa, on June 29, 1992. Prosecutors had said they would seek the death penalty in the case, and Cook said he took the plea deal to avoid that, the News & Record reported. He also was found guilty of conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, which was merged for prosecution.
Terry Mickey, who was 36 at the time of the trial, is serving life plus 20 years after being found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Cook, a postal worker from Kernersville who lived in Greensboro at the time of the trial, testified that he killed Melissa Mickey because his cousin said he “owed him a favor,” the News & Record reported.
She was found shot twice in the head and once in the back at the couple’s home in Asheboro. Cook said Mickey told him Cook owed him because he had provided Cook with money from stolen credit cards.
Cook, who had no other prior record of incarceration as an adult, said Mickey offered him $10,000 because he didn’t want to divorce his wife. They had two children.
The state’s release says that MAPP is a “scholastic and vocational program” that is a 3-way agreement among the commission, the Division of Prisons and the offender.
To be part of the MAPP program, an inmate must show a desire to improve educational and training programs and a self-improvement process. There is a 3-year walk-up to release that, the MAPP website states, requires the inmate:
- To be in medium or minimum custody.
- Not to be subject to a detainer or pending court action that could result in further confinement.
- To be infraction-free for a period of 90 days before being recommended.
- If sentenced under the Fair Sentencing Act, to be eligible for 270-day parole or community-service parole.
Walker, who most recently had been held at Forsyth Correctional Center in Winston-Salem, had only four infractions on his record, three of them for disobeying orders and one for profane language.
Cook, who most recently has been held in Davidson County Correctional Center, has had only one infraction against him, which was a 1997 citation for substance possession.
If you have questions about the releases, the commission will accept them if you call 919-716-3010.