Bertie County Sheriff Tyrone Ruffin discusses recent string of deadly violence

Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 11:44 PM EDT
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BERTIE COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) -Bertie County Sheriff Tyrone Ruffin was emotional at a somber press conference Monday night after deputies say another life was lost due to gun violence.

“Last night Tony Watford was shot and killed outside of his home,” Ruffin said.

Watford’s death Sunday night is the third homicide Bertie County has seen in less than a week.

Last Tuesday deputies said Ricky Gilliam was killed shortly after his wife said he went to answer the door. Two nights later deputies said they went to a home in Lewiston Woodville where they found Horace Lassiter shot dead outside.

“Each one of these violent crimes has made a heavy impact on our county and community,” Ruffin said.

There have been four homicides since 2023 began, with the first happening back in February after deputies say 80-year-old Lan Rawls was fatally stabbed. Robert Reid is charged with her murder.

Ruffin says Gilliam, Rawls, and Watford being over fifty years old has caused some to believe the murders are specifically aimed at older people, however, he cleared up those rumors.

“I would say the information that you’ve received about some of these cases targeting the elderly aren’t true,” Ruffin said.

Pastors and county officials like Rob Wesson were also in attendance at Monday night’s press conference.

The Chairman of the Board of Commissioners believes the persistence from Ruffin and other leaders can will Bertie County out of what he’s calling a rocky patch.

“No stone will be unturned,” Wesson said. “We’ll make sure everything is done not only to protect you but bring justice.”

Ruffin mentioned that Bertie County has seen a string of violence similar to what has happened so far this year once before in 2016.

Ruffin also says although a suspect has been arrested in Rawls’ murder, and they’re searching for Mackenzie Watford, the son of last night’s murder victim, in his death., they still need the public’s help in Gilliam’s and Lassiter’s deaths.