More than a year after police discovered the beaten bodies of a couple inside their Lincolnton home, the man charged with killing them pleaded guilty in court Friday afternoon.
Judge Forrest Bridges handed down a hefty sentence on Wilbert Lester Fair inside a Lincoln County Superior courtroom.
Fair, initially charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the case, accepted a plea deal for two counts of second-degree murder.
Bridges sentenced Fair to two consecutive terms of 251 months to 314 months in prison but said the defendant would receive credit for the 408 days he has already served.
The defendant used a hammer and his bare hands to kill 53-year-old Bonnie Sue Vincent and her 58-year-old husband Michael Paul Vincent on July 24, 2012, during an argument over cocaine, prosecutors said.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Miller rehashed the murder details to the courtroom Friday as several family members of both Fair and the victims sat and listened.
Fair leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes as Miller spoke. He even shifted uneasily in his seat at times and hung his head.
Michael Vincent’s mother, Marie Fox, 81, addressed Fair before receiving his sentence.
Fox told the defendant she would never be able to forgive him but that she hoped his family would find “peace”–the same peace her son told her he had found just weeks before his death, she said.
Fox also noted how both she and Fair’s family “lost a son” the day of the double homicide.
“I can’t put into words what it’s like to lose a child,” she said.
During the course of the investigation, Fair admitted to Lincolnton Police that he knew the Vincents and often smoked marijuana with them, Miller said.
On the day the victims died, Miller said Fair’s friend, Steven Michaels, told detectives the defendant stopped by his house and asked to borrow a hammer before walking towards Massapoag Road, located near the couple’s Broome Street residence.
At the time, Fair had been under the influence of cocaine, prosecutors revealed.
Michaels told police Fair later returned with the neck of his shirt stretched out but no blood or other identifiable injuries on him.
Prosecutors said Michaels later came forward after hearing about the details of the murder and told officers he lent his hammer to Fair that day.
According to a defense attorney, Fair had not gone to the victims’ home to hurt them but that during an altercation over drugs, Bonnie Vincent “came at him,” prompting Fair to react, injuring her.
The defense said Michael Vincent then “came at” Fair, but that the defendant had no idea he had killed the couple when he left the home.
Two days later, a friend of the Vincents, Justin Hester, located the bodies and called 911, police said.
Without air conditioning inside the home, the bodies greatly decomposed in the summer heat, officers said.
Autopsies state medical examiners conducted the following day revealed both victims died from blunt force trauma to the head.
Nearly a week after the bodies were found, police arrested Fair.
Lieutenant Brian Greene, who headed the investigation, praised the patrol division’s unity in working the case, which officers spent “1,000s of hours” on, he said.
He also offered his condolences to the Vincents’ family for their losses.
“Our thoughts and hearts go out to the family,” Greene said.
Fair gave a similiar statement in court Friday.
“I apologize for it,” he said repetitively, facing Fox and other members of the victims’ family.
Fair was sentenced without the possibility of parole.
Judge Bridges noted the defendant would be nearly 86 years old before being eligible for release.