Stephen Buckner was sentenced to death by the State of North Carolina for a triple murder. According to court documents Stephen Buckner would shoot and kill 42-year-old Vicky Lynn Lowery, Lowery’s daughter, 14-year-old Chelsea Nicole Gregory and Buckner’s own daughter, 25-year-old Rebecca Rose Buckner. Stephen Buckner would shoot and injure two more people. Stephen Buckner would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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That one word never rang so sweet as it did Tuesday for the families of 14-year-old Chelsea Nicole Gregory, 42-year-old Vicky Lynn Lowery and 25-year-old Rebecca Rose Buckner.
After about six hours of deliberation Monday and Tuesday, the eight women and four men who heard the evidence in the case of 52-year-old Stephen Monroe Buckner, formerly of 6905 U.S. 70 East in Nebo, found him guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Gregory, Lowery and his daughter Rebecca.
They also convicted him of one count of attempted first-degree murder for shooting and wounding Gina Edwards, who was 21 at the time of Stephen’s rampage on Jan. 18, 2008, and six counts of assault with a deadly weapon for opening fire on sheriff’s deputies Vic Hollifield, Randy Slagle, Dan Shook, Lynn Greene, Jennifer Trantham and Steve Hensley.
In reference to the assaults, Stephen was originally charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. The jurors opted to convict the defendant of the lesser charge.
As he has done throughout the trial, which is now in its eighth week, Stephen showed no emotion when the verdicts were read and each juror was polled.
Judge David Lee of Union County made it clear to family members before the verdicts were presented that he would not tolerate any outbursts. But relatives of Edwards and all three deceased victims were more than happy to share their thoughts afterward.
“It gives me some relief to know that justice was done today,” said Bobby Gregory, Chelsea’s father. “I want him to die. He stopped my world when he took my daughter away. Now he should be taken away.”
Lois Sandall is Lowery’s sister, Chelsea’s aunt and Edwards’ mother.
“I’m satisfied with the verdict,” she stated. “But no matter what happens, I won’t have peace of mind. Nothing will bring them back. I want him to feel the pain we have felt.”
The heartache of the trial, Sandall added, has been grueling.
“It’s been very hard, especially when I had to sit here and listen to my daughter testify and to hear the 911 tape of my niece’s last words and to see those pictures,” she said. “I’ve been able to get through it only by the grace of God.”
Becky Wright, Rebecca’s mother, was in the courtroom early on but had to return home to Georgia. She received word of the jury’s decision by phone Tuesday.
“Rebecca was a wonderful girl, and I loved her dearly,” Wright stated. “So far, justice has been served. My prayers go out to the other families.”
After the verdict, the jurors moved right into the sentencing phase of the trial. Based on evidence presented by both sides, they will now determine whether Stephen should be put to death or serve life in prison without parole in connection with the murder cases.
In doing so, they will consider aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors are those that make the crimes more worthy of the death penalty, and mitigating ones make the crimes more worthy of life in prison.
District Attorney Brad Greenway said the facts laid out during the trial portion would serve as his evidence in the sentencing phase.
The defense presented its first witness – one of Stephen’s high school sweethearts — late Tuesday afternoon. Read about her testimony in Thursday’s McDowell News.