William Anthony was sentenced to death by the State of North Carolina for the murder of his ex wife Semantha Belk Anthony. According to court documents William Anthony would murder Semantha Belk Anthony and attempted to murder his former father in law. William Anthony would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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At defendant’s trial, the State presented evidence that defendant and Semantha Belk Anthony were married on 26 October 1985 and that two children were born of the marriage. Defendant and Semantha separated for several months in 1992. During this separation, defendant wrecked Semantha’s vehicle with his truck and grabbed her after allegedly seeing her with another man. Defendant was charged with communicating a threat and with assault on a female as a result of this incident, but the charges were subsequently dropped. Defendant and Semantha temporarily reconciled but separated again in March 1997, as detailed below. Semantha told her mother, Martha Belk, that she was leaving defendant because her sons “were being abused” and “she was scared of [defendant].” Similarly, she told her father, John Edward Belk, that she was separating from defendant because “she was afraid he was going to kill her and the boys.”
On 15 March 1997, Semantha met with attorney Jay Stroud, who prepared a separation agreement. This agreement, which defendant and Semantha signed on 19 March 1997, gave Semantha primary custody of the children and entitled defendant, in part, to visitation with the children twice a week and on alternate weekends. Thereafter, Semantha and the children left the marital residence. Semantha stayed with her parents briefly, then moved into an apartment. The children slept at the Belks’ home.
A week after signing the separation agreement, defendant contacted Susan Russell, a legal assistant for attorney Stroud, to complain about Semantha’s failure to remove the remainder of her property from the marital residence. Ms. Russell contacted Semantha, who responded that defendant had been harassing her since they signed the separation agreement. She further explained that she had not yet acted because she was afraid of defendant and was trying to find someone to accompany her when she retrieved her property. In fact, on 16 March 1997, the day after Semantha visited attorney Stroud, the Gaston County Police Department had been dispatched to the marital residence in response to a domestic dispute. Defendant told the responding officer that he had a gun but had thrown it in the woods behind the house at Semantha’s request.
On 9 April 1997, Semantha filed a “Complaint and Motion for a Domestic Violence Protective Order” against defendant in which she stated, “4-8-97. Has threatened to kill me, constantly follows me at different times, carries a gun. I fear for my life.” That same day, a judge signed an “Ex Parte Domestic Violence Protective Order” and set a hearing in the matter for 16 April 1997.
On the morning of Tuesday, 15 April 1997, defendant arrived at the Belks’ home to visit his children. Although in the past defendant had been welcome do to so whenever he wanted, Semantha instructed her parents no longer to allow defendant to see the children before school because his visits upset them. However, when Mr. Belk told defendant that he could not see his children, defendant pushed him aside and entered the house. Defendant was crying at the time, and his children became agitated while talking to him. After defendant left, Mr. Belk reported the incident to the police, and J.T. Welch, an officer with the Mount Holly Police Department, responded. He testified that Mr. Belk described the incident to him and stated that defendant had at some point made threats that he would kill the whole family. Mr. Belk appeared troubled and said that he did not know what defendant was capable of doing. He added that he thought his daughter had obtained a restraining order against defendant.
Officer Welch advised Scott Wright, an officer with the Mount Holly Police Department, of the incident and of a possible restraining order against defendant. Officer Wright went to the Belks’ home to speak with Semantha, who told him about the incident that morning and added that defendant had been following her and threatening to “blow her f_ing head off.” After speaking with Semantha, Officer Wright confirmed that an “Ex Parte Domestic Violence Protection Order” had been issued.
Officer Wright saw Semantha later that day at a hair salon. While speaking with her, she exclaimed, “There he is, there he is,” and she and the officer watched as defendant drove slowly past the salon. Afterwards, Officer Wright visited Semantha at her residence, where she told him that defendant was supposed to bring the children to her parents’ home later that day. She requested that a police officer come by during that time because she thought there would be trouble and added, “He’ll kill me if he gets a chance.”
That same day, Semantha also called legal assistant Russell to report that defendant had hired an attorney who was going to attempt to have the 16 April 1997 domestic violence hearing postponed because defendant was scheduled to undergo surgery. During their conversation, Semantha told Ms. Russell that she recently had purchased a gun because she was afraid to stay in her residence without protection and that her children were sleeping at her parents’ home because she was fearful something would happen.
Defendant went back to the Belks’ home on the afternoon of 15 April 1997, bringing flowers for Semantha and steaks for the Belks as an apology for the encounter that morning. Although defendant left after several minutes, events rapidly took an ominous turn. Defendant’s stepfather, Johnny Kendall, testified that he later told Mount Holly Police Officer Barry Colvard that he thought he had talked defendant out of doing something he would regret but that when defendant grabbed several shotgun shells and ran out of the house, Mr. Kendall called 911. He told the operator that defendant had left his home with a gun to shoot Semantha. Randy Carter, a neighbor of the Kendalls, testified that Mrs. Kendall came to his house on 15 April 1997 just prior to the shootings and asked him to calm defendant. Defendant told Mr. Carter that he could not take it anymore and was going to kill Semantha. While Mr. Carter was speaking with defendant, defendant was searching for something in three rooms and the attic of the Kendalls’ house. When defendant left, Mr. Carter observed a shotgun in the back of defendant’s truck.
Approximately one hour after leaving the Belks’ home, defendant returned. Semantha, who was there waiting for defendant to drop off the children, ran outside when she heard defendant blow his horn. Mr. Belk, who had seen defendant drive down the street, was outside talking with his neighbor James Fitcher. Several minutes later, Mr. Belk heard someone yell, “Todd’s got Sandy, dragging Sandy out front, he’s got a gun.” Mr. Belk ran inside his home to find something with which to defend himself. When he emerged, he saw that defendant was wielding a shotgun while holding the crouching or kneeling Semantha by her hair. Defendant told Semantha, “Hold still, b_. I’m going to kill you,” while she pleaded with defendant to let her go. When Mr. Belk told defendant not to hurt his daughter, defendant became distracted and Semantha was able to break free and run. Defendant chased her and shot her in the back. He then reloaded his shotgun and, as the wounded Semantha lay on the ground begging for her life, flipped her over with his foot; said, “ Hold still, b_”; and shot her again. Defendant reloaded; aimed his shotgun at Mr. Belk; said, “You’re next, old man”; and shot Mr. Belk in the shoulder. Defendant next aimed at Mrs. Belk, who was standing on her front porch. Although defendant apparently pulled the trigger, his weapon failed to fire. Defendant threw the shotgun in the back of his truck; said, “Now I can go to jail”; then sped away, scattering gravel. Several neighbors, including James Fitcher, Kimberly Fitcher, Brenda Cagle, Bobbie Auten, and Gloria Jenkins, witnessed the shootings and corroborated the testimony of Mr. and Mrs. Belk.
After shooting Semantha and Mr. Belk, defendant drove to his parents’ house. Defendant told Mr. Carter that he had shot Semantha and asked Mr. Carter to drive him to the jail. As Mr. Carter was driving, defendant repeatedly stated, “Why did she do this to me? Why? Why? Why?” Mr. Carter saw several patrol vehicles and flagged down Mount Holly Police Officer B.G. Summey. As Officer Summey approached, defendant spontaneously stated, “I did it. I shot them. I couldn’t take it anymore.” Defendant identified himself and while being handcuffed said, “I shot her twice. Is she all right?” After advising defendant of his Miranda rights, Officer Summey searched defendant and found several Xanax tablets in defendant’s pocket. Defendant then told Officer Summey that the murder weapon was in the back of his truck at his parents’ home.
Defendant was taken to the Mount Holly Police Department, where he consented to a search of his truck and his parents’ home. When asked to sign a waiver of rights form, defendant responded, “Yes, I’m guilty. I’ll sign whatever.” Defendant said that he had not slept in three to four weeks and that he had taken several Xanax pills before the shootings. When Officer Summey informed defendant that his wife had died and that he was under arrest for her murder, defendant responded, “I know I’m guilty.” Thereafter, defendant was transported to the Gaston County Police Department to be fingerprinted and photographed. While entering the patrol vehicle, defendant responded to an officer’s caution to watch his head by saying, “I just killed my wife. My head’s the last of my worries.” While en route, defendant asked, “Is she still alive?” and “Can I get the death penalty for this?”
Once at the Gaston County Police Department, defendant explained that he killed his wife because she was seeing other men and was not going to let him visit his children. He stated that Semantha had called his mother that day and told her she was never going to let defendant see his children again, she wished defendant was dead, and she would not even visit defendant’s grave if he died. Defendant was then taken to the magistrate’s office. On the way, defendant commented, “One of the bullets was meant for me, and the old man confronted me so I shot him too,” and “I pulled the trigger. I’m guilty. Go ahead and give me the death penalty.” Defendant told the magistrate, “I didn’t mean to do it but she kept using the kids against me.”
Several witnesses testified as to statements defendant made prior to the murder indicating his intention to kill his wife. Benny Hale, owner of Benny’s Fishing Lake, testified that defendant was a frequent customer. He noticed a change in defendant in February 1997. Approximately two weeks before Semantha’s murder, defendant told Mr. Hale that he was experiencing problems with his wife because she would not let him see his children as often as he wanted. During this conversation, defendant became upset; began to cry; and stated to Mr. Hale, “Benny, I’m thinking about killing the b_.” On 10 April 1997, defendant told Kimberly Fitcher, the Belks’ neighbor, that Semantha had served papers at his place of employment and was opposing his efforts to obtain joint custody of their children. Ms. Fitcher testified that defendant said “he would hurt anyone who stood in his way of him being with his kids.” Gordon Arnold, manager of Mount Holly Farm Supply, testified that defendant entered his store on 14 April 1997. When Mr. Arnold asked defendant, “Can I help you?” defendant, who was visibly upset, responded, “You can’t help me with my problems․ My wife left me. She is running around on me. She won’t let me see my kids. I am going to kill her and if her old man gets in my way, I’m going to kill him, too.” Finally, Carl Barker, who had been defendant’s supervisor at work for approximately ten years, testified that defendant had not been himself for six months prior to Semantha’s murder. On several occasions, including 15 April 1997, defendant told him that “he was going to kill the b_.”
Dr. Peter Wittenberg, the pathologist at Gaston Memorial Hospital who autopsied Semantha, testified that her death was caused by bleeding from the lungs and wounds in her chest. He described her death as not immediate and “very painful.” Dr. Timothy Carr, an emergency physician at Gaston Memorial Hospital, treated Mr. Belk on 15 April 1997 and described his injuries as life-threatening. Ronald Marrs, a special agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, was accepted as an expert in firearms and tool-mark examinations and identifications. He identified the twenty-gauge shotgun retrieved from defendant’s truck as the weapon used in the shootings and determined from examination of Semantha’s clothing that defendant was twelve to twenty-one feet away from her when he fired the first shot and six to twelve feet away from her when he fired the second shot.
Defendant presented evidence at the guilt-innocence phase of his trial to establish a history of tension in his relationship with Semantha. He testified that various individuals told him that she was having affairs and that he had seen her kiss another man during their first separation. He claimed that after their March 1997 separation Semantha attempted to prevent him from seeing his children.
On the day of the shootings, defendant was upset about his separation from Semantha and his inability to see his children. He consumed beer, vodka, and Xanax to deal with this distress, and as a result could not remember what happened at the Belks’ home and thereafter. Numerous witnesses corroborated defendant’s claim to have consumed intoxicants, including defendant’s father, Tony Anthony; his mother, Diane Kendall; and his stepfather, Johnny Kendall. Vivian Daley, a nurse at the Gaston County jail, testified that when she saw defendant on 16 April 1997, less than twenty-four hours after the shootings, he “was staring straight ahead and he was crying․ [I]n my professional opinion, he did not seem to know where he was.” She noted that defendant’s eyes were dilated and that he smelled of alcohol. Terry Wellman, a nurse at the Gaston County Police Department, observed defendant on 16 April 1997 shortly after his apparent attempt to commit suicide in jail. Because defendant was crying incoherently and his eyes were dilated, she requested a drug test. The results were positive for Xanax even though the test was administered twenty hours after the murder.
Dr. Roy J. Mathew, who was tendered and accepted as an expert in psychiatry specializing in the fields of addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry, testified as to the effects of Xanax and alcohol on the human brain. Dr. Mathew was of the opinion that defendant’s claimed memory loss of the murder was valid, and characterized what happened to defendant as a “black-out.” He also believed that defendant’s suicide attempt in the Gaston County jail was consistent with ingestion of Xanax. As to defendant’s mental condition on the day of the murder, Dr. Mathew stated, “I think he was significantly impaired. He was significantly intoxicated at the time of the alleged crime with alcohol and Xanax. It’s very difficult to separate one from the other because, as I indicated earlier, they do more or less the same thing in the brain.” When asked whether defendant’s mind and reason were so completely intoxicated and impaired that he could not form a specific intent to kill, Dr. Mathew responded, “I feel that he was significantly intoxicated by Xanax, alcohol, and both; that it would have been difficult for him to think rationally and clearly.”
Additional evidence was presented during the capital sentencing proceeding. This evidence will be discussed below as necessary to address sentencing issues.
We note at the outset that defendant has presented ninety-seven assignments of error. For convenience, clarity, and continuity, we have grouped related assignments of error in our opinion. We also note that, while defendant includes a constitutional component to almost all his assignments of error, in most instances he failed to preserve the constitutional issues at trial and has provided no argument and cited no cases in support of his constitutional arguments here. “Constitutional issues not raised and passed upon at trial will not be considered for the first time on appeal,” State v. Lloyd, 354 N.C. 76, 86-87, 552 S.E.2d 596, 607 (2001), and assignments of error in support of which no argument or authority is stated will be taken as abandoned, id. (quoting N.C. R.App. P. 28(b)(5)). Accordingly, we will consider only his properly preserved arguments.