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20-year-old enters Alford plea in murder of former Onslow County deputy

(WITN)
Published: Jul. 7, 2017 at 11:38 AM EDT
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A 20-year-old who is accused of killing a former deputy she had been in a "dating relationship" with entered an Alford plea in court Friday.

Caitlin Ridgeway entered the plea in Onslow County Superior Court on second degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon charges.

In an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction, but doesn't admit guilt.

Ridgeway was sentenced to serve between 24 and 32 years in prison.

William Welch plead guilty to the same charges back in March and he is awaiting sentencing

The two are accused of fatally shooting former Onslow County deputy William Clifton, 48, of Richlands back in 2017.

Welch told detectives that he saw Clifton at Woodlands Park, hugging and kissing then 17-year-old Ridgeway. Prosecutors say there was no evidence that the relationship was not consensual, and the legal age of consent is 16.

“It’s a difficult case," said Assistant District Attorney Bob Rupe. "Will was very liked and very respected by those of us who worked in the court system with him. It’s hard to say you ever get justice when someone is murdered because they never come back. But considering the evidence we had and the totality of the case, I think it was a reasonable outcome”

The autopsy revealed that Clifton was shot five times. Rupe says Welch was also involved in a relationship with Ridgeway at the time.


PREVIOUS STORY

A twenty-year-old plead guilty to the murder of a former deputy.

William Welch Jr. has been charged with second degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the shooting death of former Onslow County deputy William Clifton, 48, of Richlands.

In a news release, District Attorney Ernie Lee says Clifton was shot multiple times in Woodlands park in Jacksonville on July 7, 2017.

Welch told detectives that he saw Clifton at the park, hugging and kissing then 18-year-old Caitlyn Ridgeway, who was reportedly in a relationship with Clifton.

That's when Welch attacked Clifton.

An autopsy revealed that Clifton was shot five times.


PREVIOUS STORY

A teenager charged yesterday with the murder of a former Onslow County deputy had been in a "dating relationship" with the victim, according to court documents.

Caitlin Ridgeway, 18, made a brief first court appearance this morning in Jacksonville. Police arrested her around 4:00 p.m. Tuesday on the murder charge.

The body of 48-year-old Will Clifton was found early in the morning on July 7th in Woodlands Park.

A week after the murder, police arrested and charged 18-year-old Will Welch, of Jacksonville, with the homicide as well.

Back in February of 2016, Ridgeway received a domestic violence protection order against Clifton, who at that point was still employed by the Onslow County Sheriff's Office.

In that order, Ridgeway says Clifton came to her job, and texted her. She also claimed the deputy sent her pictures of pills and a gun.

The February 16, 2016 order said Clifton was to stay away from Ridgeway and her family. It was effective for one year.

In the order, it said Clifton contacted the teen "after being told not to while an internal investigation in ongoing is the sheriff's dept."

Ridgeway was 17 years old at the time the order was signed. The age of consent in North Carolina is 16.

Clifton left the sheriff's office the same month of the protection order, while the SBI confirms he was the subject of an investigation for possibly taking indecent liberties with a minor when he was murdered.

In court this morning, a judge ordered Ridgeway be kept in jail without bond.


Previous Story

The second teenager who is accused of killing a former deputy sheriff will continue to be held without bond.

Caitlin Ridgeway, 18, made a brief first court appearance this morning in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville police around 4:00 p.m. Tuesday arrested Ridgeway on the murder charge.

The body of 48-year-old Will Clifton was found early in the morning on July 7th in Woodlands Park.

A week after the murder, police arrested and charged 18-year-old Will Welch, of Jacksonville, with the homicide.

Clifton left the sheriff's office last year, while the SBI confirms he was the subject of an investigation for possibly taking indecent liberties with a minor.

Police have not said if the indecent liberties investigation is anyway connected to the homicide. A news release does say police do not expect to make any more arrests in the murder case.

During the court appearance, Ridgeway was given August 16th as her next court date.


Previous Story

A second teenager has been charged with the murder of a former Onslow County deputy sheriff.

Jacksonville police around 4:00 p.m. Tuesday arrested 18-year-old Caitlin Ridgeway.

The body of 48-year-old Will Clifton was found early in the morning on July 7th in Woodlands Park.

A week after the murder, police arrested and charged 18-year-old Will Welch, of Jacksonville, with the homicide.

Clifton left the sheriff's office last year, while the SBI confirms he was the subject of an investigation for possibly taking indecent liberties with a minor.

Police have not said if the indecent liberties investigation is anyway connected to the homicide. A news release does say police do not expect to make any more arrests in the murder case.


Previous Story

A teenager will remain jailed without bond for the murder of a former sheriff's deputy.

Jacksonville police charged Will Welch, 18, on Friday with the murder of Will Clifton.

Welch is also facing separate charges of possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana paraphernalia, resisting a public officer and injury to property.

The body of 48-year-old Clifton was found July 7th in Woodlands Park. He was shot to death.

Clifton left the sheriff's office last year, while the SBI confirms he was the subject of an investigation for possibly taking indecent liberties with a minor.

Police have not said if the indecent liberties investigation is anyway connected to the homicide.

Captain Ashley Weaver says they anticipate additional arrests in the murder case.

During his first appearance Monday morning, Welch's mother indicated the family would be hiring their own attorney.

The funeral for Clifton was today in Jacksonville.


Previous Story

Police have made an arrest in the murder of a former deputy sheriff.

Jacksonville police have charged Will Welch, 18, with an open count of murder.

The body of 48-year-old Will Clifton was found last Friday morning in Woodlands Park. He was shot to death.

"Jacksonville Police Detectives, in a joint investigation with Naval Criminal Investigative Services, have been working this case continuously since last Friday morning" said Captain Ashley Weaver, JPD Investigative Services Supervisor.

Weaver says they anticipate additional arrests in the murder case.

No motive has been given in the former deputy's death.

Clifton was a sergeant with the sheriff's office, but resigned on February 15, 2016. The man worked for Onslow County for nine years, according to personnel records.

Meanwhile, the State Bureau of Investigation confirms that Clifton was the subject of an investigation for possibly taking indecent liberties with a minor.

The SBI says their investigation began on May 5th at the request of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office after it learned of the allegations.


Previous Story

Jacksonville police are wanting to speak with the driver of a white car that was seen near a park where a former deputy sheriff was found shot to death.

The body of 48-year-old Will Clifton was discovered at Woodlands Park, which is behind Parkwoods Elementary School in Jacksonville, around 6:30 a.m. Friday.

Clifton was a sergeant with the sheriff's office, but resigned on February 15h, 2016. The man worked for Onslow County for nine years, according to personnel records.

"We would like to speak to the person driving the white vehicle, who may have seen or heard something that could be helpful to the investigation" said Captain Ashley Weaver.

Captain Weaver says that vehicle is a four-door late 80s or early 90s car, possibly a Nissan Sentra type of vehicle.

There is a reward of up to $5,000 for information on this case.

Meanwhile, the State Bureau of Investigation confirms that Clifton was the subject of an investigation for possibly taking indecent liberties with a minor.

The SBI says their investigation began on May 5th at the request of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office after it learned of the allegations.

Mac Warner, Special Agent in Charge of the Coastal District, says the victim was 12 years old at the time.

Warner says while the investigation is ongoing, they will present their finding to the district attorney who may decide to throw out the case because Clifton is now deceased.


Previous Story

Police are asking for the public's help as they continue to investigate the death of a former Onslow County deputy sheriff.

The body of 48-year-old Will Clifton was found at Woodlands Park, which is behind Parkwoods Elementary School in Jacksonville, around 6:30 a.m. Friday.

Clifton was a sergeant with the sheriff's office, but resigned on February 15h, 2016. The man worked for Onslow County for nine years, according to personnel records.

Jacksonville police continue to call Clifton's shooting a death investigation. A team of detectives has been working on the case since Friday morning, according to a news release.

Police now are asking anyone who may have seen vehicles in or around Northwoods Drive and the park between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on Thursday night to give them a call.

"Even the smallest amount of information could be helpful to the investigators" said Captain Ashley Weaver.

A reward for information on this case now totals $5,000. Anyone with information can call police at 910-938-6410 or Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273.


Previous Story

Jacksonville police have identified the man who was found shot to death this morning at a city park.

Police say around 6:30 a.m. the body of 48-year-old Will Clifton was found at Woodlands Park, which is behind Parkwoods Elementary School.

The Richlands man is a former deputy with the Onslow County Sheriff's Office and sources say he left the county's employment last year.

Neighbors tell us they heard multiple gunshots and police closed off several streets leading into the park. It appears Clifton's body was found behind a city pump station at the park.

While police say there is "no safety threat to the public", they are offering a $5000 reward in a case they describe as an open and active death investigation.