LILLINGTON — A suspect in the murder of a 72-year-old grandmother turned himself in minutes after Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats held a press conference to update the case.
Accompanied by several family members on Wednesday morning, Artis Lewis Elliott, 29, of Beaver Dam Road, surrendered at the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office and was booked on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Margie Pipkin. Minutes earlier, Coats said Elliott faced a murder charge after Pipkin passed away Tuesday night from a gunshot wound to the head. Pipkin suffered the injury Monday morning while sitting at a stop sign on Bunnlevel Erwin Road and Beaver Road.
“ turned himself in right when the press conference ended,” Lt. Aaron Meredith said. “He walked in, he was with some family members, he gave them a hug goodbye, he was placed under arrest and taken back to the jail for processing. He had a number of family members with him. I wish he had done it 30 minutes earlier. He was originally charged with assault with a deadly weapon but now since she passed away, he’s been charged with first-degree murder.”
Coats credited the public with providing valuable information that helped his office develop a suspect. Coats held a similar press conference on Monday afternoon, hours after the morning shooting in an effort to raise awareness and hopefully get some leads about the shooting.
“Our motto is we’ve got to trust in our community,” said Coats. “Our community has got to trust in us. We got to where we are today because of the public’s input. The tips started coming in and it was the public trusting in us and us trusting in them that helped resolve this case.”
After identifying two vehicles in the shooting that led to Pipkin’s death, Coats on Wednesday said the investigation only confirmed a single suspect.
“What I’m going to say at this point is there were two cars involved but only one that we can confirm was doing the shooting,” Coats said. “The evidence we got points to Mr. Elliott. I think he was the only one involved as far as killing Mrs. Pipkin.”
When asked what he felt led to the shooting, Coats said the area around Beaver Dam Road and Bunnlevel Erwin Road off N.C. Highway 217 has turned into a Hatfield & McCoys type situation where violence is becoming commonplace. Monday’s shooting marked the fifth such act of violence on that road since January.
“The best we know right now, this is an ongoing feud out there in that area,” said Coats. “This investigation will continue on. It does’t take much to set them off. It’s so disturbing and aggravating. A lot of it is gang, turf war. It’s in the country. They know they’re not in a municipality and they’re less likely to get caught. There are less witnesses out there.”
HCSO stepped up patrols in the area in recent months and Coats encouraged residents to speak up if they see anything suspicious.
“Yes, you need to be concerned,” Coats said. “But you can’t live in a bubble. If you see anything, call us, let us handle it. The public needs to be vigilant and make us aware of anything that goes on. To the public I would say this, you know we’re out there, we’re going to do our job and do it the best we can. Our men and women are working hard.”
Coats said Pipkin was well loved in the community and died as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Eliot Duke can be reached at email@example.com or at 910-230-2038.