GREENSBORO, NC (WGHP) – A Davidson County man who was convicted of first-degree murder when he was a teenager and whose case had been reviewed at the highest levels of the courts is going to be released from his life sentence in prison – just not quite yet.

Sethy T. Seam (NC DOC)

The North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission, which is responsible for reviewing the cases and releasing some inmates convicted of crimes that occurred before October 1994, announced in November that it was considering parole for Sethy Tony Seam, who has been in prison for more than two decades.

On Monday the commission announced in an email that Seam had been approved for parole and would be released in about three years, on Feb. 2, 2026, if he successfully completes the requirements of the commission’s Mutual Agreement Parole Program.

North Carolina abolished parole in cases involving murder and rape as of Oct. 1, 1994, and the commission has been charged with considering the parole of offenders who were sentenced under guidelines before that date. The commission sometimes seeks public comment on whether that parole should be granted.

But the case involving Seam, 41, is a bit different from dozens of others approved recently the commission because there were judgments after the 1994 cutoff date.

He has been serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole after being convicted in 1999 of first-degree murder in Davidson County Superior Court. He was resentenced on Oct. 11, 2017, after his case fell under review by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Details of the case

Seam was 16 in 1999 when he was arrested after a robbery in Lexington during which Harold King, owner of King Supermarket at 305 Bisecker Road in Lexington, was shot to death.

Seam, who lived at 210 Confederate St. in Lexington, was arrested with Freddy Van, 16, of 1195 Leonard Road, and they were charged as adults with first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. Seam was in the car while Van robbed the store and shot the clerk three times, a summary of court documents revealed.  Seam told investigators that he did not even know that his friend had a gun and never entered the store.

Van pleaded guilty in August 1999 to second-degree murder and attempted armed robbery and was sentenced to spend between 27 and 34 years in prison. He was released in January after serving 22 years and 9 months.

But a month after Van’s plea, a jury deliberated two and a half hours before finding Seam guilty of first-degree murder even though he hadn’t entered the store or pulled the trigger. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Supreme Court’s involvement

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that life sentences without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. The NC Supreme Court then approved sentences for juveniles of life with the possibility of parole after 25 years served.

The NC Supreme Court heard Seam’s case and remanded it to lower court for resentencing on Oct. 11, 2017. He received credit for 7,262 days of pretrial confinement, Department of Corrections spokesperson Greg Thomas wrote in response to questions from WGHP.

Seam further appealed the judgment and lost his final appeal in 2020.

MAPP program

MAPP is a “scholastic and vocational program” that is a 3-way agreement among the commission, the Division of Prisons and the offender that requires an inmate to display 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.

Seam, who is housed at the Anson Correctional Institution in Polkton, only has five infractions on his record, none since 2020, when he was cited for substance possession.