Death Row Inmate Only Facing Life For Second Killing Hembree

January 26, 2012 by staff 

Death Row Inmate Only Facing Life For Second Killing Hembree, Danny Robbie Hembree will go on trial for murder for the second time in March.

The case will be heard in Gaston County Courthouse, but jurors won’t be from around here.

The decision was made during a change of venue hearing Friday. Defense attorneys Rick Beam and Brent Ratchford made a motion to move the trial out of the region because of extensive media coverage.

“It’s simply impossible for Mr. Hembree to get a fair trial in this part of the state,” Beam said.

Defense attorneys subpoenaed area newspaper and TV reporters to prove that the extensive media coverage has tainted potential jurors in Gaston County.

Attorneys for the journalists fought the subpoenas, and Superior Court Judge Beverly Beal voted to uphold the First Amendment rights of the journalists.

But it didn’t take testimony by reporters to convince Beal.

Beal said he monitored news coverage during the previous trial. He agreed that finding an impartial jury in Gaston County would be a daunting task, but he didn’t jump on board to move the proceedings elsewhere.

Instead, Beal said a jury would likely be selected from Rutherford County. The details are still being ironed out to know for sure if that’s the county that will assist in the trial.

Jury selection will take place in the county from where the jurors will be pulled. But once the trial begins, jurors will be bussed to Gastonia daily for the trial.

The trial will determine if Hembree is guilty of strangling to death 30-year-old Randi Dean Saldana in 2008.

The woman’s badly burned body was found along the side of the road in York County, S.C., just six miles from where the body of 17-year-old Heather Catterton had been found nearly two weeks earlier.

Hembree was convicted of Catterton’s suffocation death in November.

That jury decided Hembree deserved death.

District Attorney Locke Bell said he will not seek the death penalty in the upcoming trial. If convicted, Hembree would be sentenced to life in prison.

Hembree, 50, of Gaston County suffocated Catterton and then dumped her body along the side of a road in South Carolina in July 2008.

Hembree was a convicted felon at the time and told jurors from the witness stand that he smoked crack and drank with both the women on the nights they died.

Having spent nearly half his life in prison, Hembree committed a spree of armed robberies in Charlotte in 2008. When Mecklenburg County Police arrested him, he confessed to killing Catterton, Saldana and Deborah Ratchford who was found dead in Gastonia in 1992.

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