By Meg Dickens
Johnson County held the first trial at the Johnson County Courthouse on Thursday, July 23, for the 2018 kidnapping and murder of 29-year-old Burke County native Carlton Lamar Edmondson. The jury found Robert Littleton of Fleetwood guilty of felony murder, extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, especially aggravated kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit especially aggravated kidnapping. Sentencing will be held on October 4.
There are still five more accused awaiting trial for this crime: Leigh Katherine Mina of Boone, Brittany Michelle Arnold of Mountain City, Michael Stacey James May of Zionville, James Combs of Zionville, and Valerie Ann Dollar of Boone. ADA Dennis Brooks reportedly pushed for a single trial, but Judge Lisa Rice agreed to the court-appointed attorneys’ pleas, reportedly to lessen the chance of a mistrial. At the time of this article, the other trial dates are still unknown.
For those unfamiliar with this case, the situation reportedly started with a drug deal gone wrong. Edmondson’s family reported him missing to authorities after receiving multiple calls demanding $700 for his return, which was reportedly his drug debt. Officials believe he was taken all around Watauga and Ashe counties before ending up at a remote spot in Trade, Tennessee. He was reportedly beaten and left alone in temperatures averaging the mid-20s. The accused claim he was still alive when they left him.
At the time of this article, investigators still have not found Edmondson’s body but presented video evidence of his assault. Officials report the recording came from the cellphone of one of the accused and features the others assaulting Edmondson. Investigators used this phone to find the last place Edmondson was known to be alive.
The Johnson County Sheriff at that time, Mike Reece, had this to say about the video: “It’s not good to watch the way these people did this young man. I mean, nobody should be treated like that.”
Edmondson was last seen on the day of his abduction, January 19, 2018. ADA Brooks reports that he is most likely dead, and criminologists from Western Carolina University have been using cadaver dogs to search around his last whereabouts without luck.