Victim's family unhappy with sentence after woman admits killing mom

KINSTON, NC (WITN) - Relatives of a Lenoir County woman who was murdered by her daughter are speaking out about a prison sentence handed down Tuesday.

Laurie Ellis pleaded guilty in a Lenoir County courtroom to second degree murder. Brenda Woodard was shot to death in 2013 at her home on Sharon Church Road.

The judge sentenced Ellis to 16 to 20 years in state prison, a sentence several family members were not happy about.

"I think she should spend the rest of her life in prison," said Kelly Hardy, niece of the victim. "If you kill your mother, that's what you deserve, especially when her mother done everything for her."

Ellis shot her 62-year-old mother while the suspect's four-year-old son was in the next room, according to deputies.

During a 911 call, Ellis claimed the gun accidentally went off when she was showing her mother how to use it. Deputies say Woodard was shot in the back and Ellis was charged with murder.

At sentencing the judge gave her credit for more than two years already served in the county jail.

Previous Story

A 911 recording from Lenoir County Emergency Services details the moments after a woman says she accidentally shot her mother last week.

A day after that call, 41-year-old Laurie Ellis was charged by the sheriff's office with murdering her mother.

Officials say that Ellis's mother -- 62-year-old Brenda Woodard -- was shot in the back of the head last Monday by Ellis at Woodards home on Sharon Church Road.

Operator: What's your name?
Laurie Ellis: "Í'm laurie --I'm her daughter --"
Operator: "Tell me exactly what happened?"
Laurie Ellis: "We were looking at the gun, and I didn't know the thing was cocked, and I was showing her how to use it because she didn't know how to use a gun -- (inaudible)"

Officials say deceptive statements by Ellis led to the murder charge -- including those surrounding the alleged murder weapon -- a 380 semi-automatic handgun officials say was found hidden in a closet.

This is how Ellis addressed the weapon in the 911 call.

Operator: "I need to know where the gun is at."
Laurie: "(inaudible)...I put it in the bathroom."
Operator: "So it is safe and put away, correct?"
Laurie: "Yeah, yeah.."

According to Sheriff Chris Hill, Woodard was shot in the back of the head and that her husband James had arrived home after the shooting happened.

Ellis is charged with murder and possession of a stolen firearm. Her next court date is set for next Tuesday.


The Lenoir County Sheriff says a woman shot her mother to death while her four year old son was in another room.

Laurie Ellis, 41, made her first appearance Tuesday for the murder of 62-year-old Brenda Woodard.

Woodard was found dead with a gunshot wound to the back of her head in the bedroom of her home on Sharon Church Road, north of Kinston just after 4 p.m. Monday.

Lenoir County Sheriff Chris Hill says Ellis told deputies that she accidentally shot her mother. However, the sheriff says the suspect's actions after the shooting, "deceptive statements" during an interview, along with evidence at the scene led investigators to charge Ellis with murder.

Sheriff Hill says investigators found the murder weapon hidden in a closet in the home. The gun was reported stolen a year ago.

When deputies arrived, they reported Woodard's husband, James, was also at the home. The sheriff believes he came back from the dentist just after his wife was fatally shot.

The medical examiner is scheduled to perform an autopsy on Woodard Tuesday.

Ellis went before a judge just before noon on Tuesday and is being held without bond.

Previous Story
A woman has been charged with the shooting death of her mother.

Lenoir County Sheriff Chris Hill says Laurie Woodard Ellis is accused of shooting to death her mother, 62 year old Brenda Woodard.

Hill says Woodard was shot around 4:00 p.m. Monday at her home on Sharon Church Road.

More information on the arrest is expected soon from the sheriff.

Previous Story

Investigators are trying to determine how a person was fatally shot Monday afternoon in Lenoir County.

Sheriff Chris Hill confirms that a woman is dead in a home on Sharon Church Road, which is a couple miles off Highway 11, north of Kinston.

The call came in shortly after 4:00 p.m.

The sheriff said right now they are not searching for a suspect.

He says they are trying to determine what exactly happened. The only other details he can provide at this time are that the woman's husband was home and the woman's daughter is being questioned.

Stay with WITN-TV and for more on this developing story.