Nearly two and a half years after North Carolina Highway Patrol State Trooper Shawn Blanton was murdered on Interstate 40 in Haywood County, the court case against Edwardo Wong, his murderer, finally ended.
Blanton, a native of the Cherokee area, was the first member of The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to have become a state trooper. Blanton’s widow, Michaela Blanton, is a graduate of Western as well as a Catamount dance team alumni.
Along with Trooper Blanton’s family, Michaela hoped for Wong to receive the death penalty.
A jury convicted Wong of first-degree murder on Oct. 14 in Catawba County; the same jury spent six days deliberating during the sentencing phase of the trial but was unable to agree on a punishment. North Carolina law states that in the event a jury cannot reach a decision to sentence one to the death penalty, then a Judge must impose a life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, which is exactly what Wong received.
Judge Nathaniel Poovey delivered the sentence to an anxious, emotion-filled courtroom. According to court record, Poovey read aloud, “It appears to the court that this jury was deadlocked. It further appears that the jury’s deadlock is a hopeless deadlock and cannot be broken.”
Sylva native and Catamount alumni Kellen Bewsey is relieved the trial is over.
“It is about time that the Blanton family saw justice in this case and I am glad they can finally begin the process toward obtaining closure. As far the sentencing is concerned, tax payers end up paying for Wong’s crime either way; at least with life he has to suffer, and if he was given the death penalty he would probably spend years appealing it,” Bewsey said.
Caitlyn Hoffman and Kennedy Osborne, members of Western’s Delta Zeta sorority, both believe that the death penalty should be imposed whenever the punishment fits the crime.
Osborne asserted, “I believe that if you take the life of another, you deserve the same in return. You should not be allowed the privilege of freedom and of life if you have violated or murdered a human being.”
Hoffman said, “I think the death penalty should be used whenever the evidence is there, like it was in this case.”
Member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, Tim Fronning, also believes that the death penalty should have been imposed in this case.
“I fully support capital punishment, so long as it fits the crime. When someone kills an officer in the line of duty to avoid going back to jail, it is clearly a crime suitable for capital punishment,” Fronning said.
The level of emotion involved in this case was evident in Fronning’s opinion of what most thought should have been proper punishment. He also offered his condolences to Blanton’s family.
“Although I did not know him personally, I do know several people who did, and by all accounts he was a great husband, a great father, and a great officer. Thoughts and prayers are with the family always,” he said.