Couple sought for 2 N.C. deaths surrender after Norfolk standoff | |

A couple wanted in connection with a double homicide in North Carolina led state troopers on an early morning chase Friday that ended at MacArthur Center, where they held off officers for hours before surrendering.

The couple's month-old child was with them and the man had a gun, police said. No one was injured.

Police identified the couple as Timothy Hartford Jr., 38, and Ashley Kristine Smith, 26, both of Kernersville, N.C.

Winston-Salem, N.C., police on Friday charged the pair with two counts each of murder and one count each of attempted first-degree murder.

Sgt. Michelle Cotten, a State Police spokeswoman, said Trooper J.D. Goad was parked near U.S. 58 and Wilroy Road in Suffolk about 1:45 a.m. when he spotted a Ford Explorer. It matched a description put out earlier by North Carolina authorities.

Goad followed the Explorer along U.S. 58 until other troopers could join him. Only then did he put on his lights and try to pull the vehicle over.

The driver did not stop, Cotten said, and instead led troopers on a chase along U.S. 58 and through the Downtown Tunnel. Speeds reached 80 mph, and a male passenger in the vehicle brandished a gun, Cotten said.

Troopers placed tire spikes on the Norfolk side of the tunnel in an effort to stop the vehicle, but it was still able to continue on to the MacArthur parking garage.

The sport utility vehicle crashed through a wooden traffic gate and stopped inside the entrance to the parking garage just after 2 a.m.

Police negotiators made contact with the couple and talked with them through the night, Cotten said. The only thing they asked for was a Coca-Cola for the child, Cotten said.

The couple faced an array of law enforcement, including police from Norfolk, Portsmouth and Suffolk, state troopers, U.S. marshals, tactical teams, bomb squads, negotiators and traffic, motorcycle and bicycle officers, Cotten said.

About 7 a.m., the couple gave the child to authorities, and a few minutes later the man tossed a gun from the window of the SUV and the couple surrendered.

They are in custody in Norfolk and the infant has been taken by Child Protective Services.

Despite the standoff at MacArthur Center, mall General Manager Jim Wofford said all businesses opened on time. The only disruption came from part of the parking garage being shut down while police investigated the crime scene.

Hartford and Smith are being held in Norfolk without bond pending extradition proceedings to return them to North Carolina. M ore charges might be lodged against them, Cotten said.

Hartford, who has a lengthy criminal record including convictions for credit card theft, robbery and drug offenses, had been released from prison 16 months ago, according to the North Carolina Department of Corrections.

He was arrested again in October in Kernersville, N.C., and charged with possession of cocaine. He was free Thursday, having been released on bond, pending trial.

Capt. David Clayton of the Winston-Salem police said charges against Hartford and Smith stem from an incident on Thursday.

William and Edith Anne Magness, a married couple who are volunteers for Meals on Wheels, were delivering a meal to a home about noon when someone shot both of them, Clayton said.

The couple, from Clemmons, N.C., were making the last of 13 stops on their route.

When police arrived, they found that the resident they had been taking the meal to, identified as Robert Denning, had been shot.

William Magness survived and was taken to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, where he remained Friday. His wife and Denning died.

Witnesses described a white man in a silver SUV leaving the driveway after the shooting, Clayton said.

Residents also told police that a man seen in a gray or silver SUV had parked in area driveways in recent days and had knocked on doors, asking residents for water or food for his baby. It was on the basis of those descriptions that police issued the alert Goad heard early Friday.

The Magnesses had been delivering meals one day a month for eight years, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

They moved to Clemmons from Michigan several years ago, neighbors told the newspaper. Anne Magness was active in a garden club. Bill Magness is an avid golfer and devotedly tended to the couple's yard.

"He kept it immaculate," said Betty Morris, who lives two doors down from the Magnesses. "A weed didn't dare grow in his yard."

Mike Kite has lived next door to Denning for the past 20 years, the Journal reported. Denning had a stroke several years ago and was paralyzed on his left side. He used a walker. "He still had a great mind," Kite said.

He said that Denning was a bit of a loner, who lived simply. "I don't understand why anybody would want to do this," Kite said. "Bob never had any money."

Peggy Williams, an administrative assistant at Pine Grove United Methodist Church, told the newspaper that Denning would call the church occasionally, just to talk with someone.

"To kill an old man who can't defend himself and who was trying to live an independent life..." she said, her voice trailing off. "It's just kind of heart-breaking."