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Neil Sargent, left, is shown in the opening days of his trial this week. Photo by Kellen Moore




Originally published: 2012-11-03 21:51:01
Last modified: 2012-11-04 17:51:19

Co-defendant testifies against Sargent

As Kyle Triplett tells it, his party companion and fellow drug dealer Neil Sargent was to blame for the murder of ASU sophomore Stephen Harrington in 2005.

Triplett, 28, a lifelong Watauga County resident, testified for about two hours Friday about his recollections of the incident that led to Harrington’s death at age 19.

Harrington’s body was found in the trunk of his own car Nov. 8, 2005, on Sleepy Hollow Lane in Foscoe, his face duct-taped and his body partially burned.

Sargent is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon and burning of personal property. Originally convicted of all charges in 2008, Sargent successfully appealed and was granted a new trial, which began Monday.

Throughout Triplett’s disturbing testimony, defense attorney Mark Killian worked to poke holes in his account, highlighting instances in which Triplett had lied to police about his involvement.

Triplett, who also admitted participating in the murder, pleaded guilty in 2007 to lesser charges, including second-degree murder. He is currently serving between 40 years and 50 years, 4 months at Mountain View Correctional Institution in Spruce Pine.

Triplett said Friday that he had known Sargent for about three months when the murder occurred in November 2005. The two partied and used cocaine and marijuana together, and he would occasionally stay at Sargent’s home on Poplar Hill Drive after a long night of partying, Triplett said.

Triplett said he knew Harrington from the times the ASU student came over to Sargent’s house.

Triplett testified that he received a call from Sargent on Nov. 7, 2005, while he was pumping gas at a Boone service station. Sargent asked Triplett to come over, he said.

As he arrived, Sargent and Brandon Dalrymple, who also is prison for his role in the death, greeted Triplett outside the home, Triplett said. Triplett said he had met Dalrymple about one month earlier in Gastonia.

As the three re-entered the house, Sargent handed Triplett a pair of batting gloves and informed him that they were going to rob Harrington when he came to the house, Triplett testified Friday.
“He told me to ‘stick him up,’” Triplett said.

Using a gun allegedly handed to him by Sargent, Triplett stood behind the door until Harrington entered, grabbing him by the throat, pinning him against the refrigerator and putting a gun to his head, Triplett said.

Triplett said that he choked Harrington until his face turned red, before he “got scared” and let go.

As Harrington stooped toward the living room, clutching his throat, Sargent jumped on his back and wrapped his face with duct tape, Triplett testified. The process took five to 10 seconds.

Sargent started punching the victim in the face, and Triplett and Dalrymple joined in, Triplett said.

Dalrymple then patted down the body, pulling out a box from the cargo pocket of Harrington’s pants that contained a bag of about four to six ounces of cocaine, Triplett said.

Triplett said Sargent then unclipped Harrington’s keys from his pants, passed them on and told Triplett to turn around Harrington’s car in the driveway.

Harrington’s body was still shortly after the attack, Triplett testified.

“I just assumed he was dead,” Triplett said Friday in court.

Sargent and Triplett then picked up the body and dragged it outside to Harrington’s red Subaru while Dalrymple stood as lookout, he said.

Dalrymple then re-entered the house and returned with a pistol, which he handed to Sargent, Triplett said. Neither of the other two men was armed, he added.

With Sargent in the passenger seat giving directions — the pistol on his lap — Triplett drove the red Subaru south toward Foscoe on N.C. 105, he said.

As they turned in to Sleepy Hollow, Triplett checked the vehicle to make sure he hadn’t dropped any items, he said. As he exited the vehicle, Sargent was at the trunk, spraying the body with lighter fluid, Triplett testified.

“He told me to light Stephen’s hands, at Stephen’s hands,” Triplett said, adding that he did so.

As the lighter fluid caught fire, Triplett said he slammed the trunk and headed toward the second vehicle, which Dalrymple was driving. Sargent told him to stop and pop the trunk again because the fire needed oxygen, he said.

The three men headed back toward Boone, tossing Harrington’s keys out the window on the way, Triplett said.

Back at Sargent’s house that night, Sargent made a couple of calls and weighed out some of the cocaine stolen from Harrington’s pocket. Triplett said he took about three and a half grams to a person named Will.

When he returned, Sargent and Dalrymple were in the kitchen cooking the powder cocaine into crack, Triplett said. Triplett helped himself to a line of coke, he said.

The three stayed up all night and into the next morning, doing drugs and not discussing what they had done to Harrington, Triplett said.

After sleeping almost all day, Triplett was awakened by Sargent, who told him the police were at the house and wanted to talk to him, Triplett testified.

Shortly thereafter at the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Triplett said he made a statement to SBI Special Agent Wade Colvard, Detective Brian Tolbert and Sheriff Mark Shook.

Triplett said in court Friday that that statement — that he was sleeping when the incident with Harrington occurred — was not true.

On cross-examination, Killian questioned Triplett about a second statement made in April 2008 to Colvard and Dee Dee Rominger, an investigator for the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. Killian asked an array of questions about that statement, and Triplett said several times that he didn’t remember what he said in that statement.


Sargent’s statement
Triplett’s story conflicted in several parts with Sargent’s original statement to police, described in court Friday by SBI Special Agent Marc Sharpe.
Sharpe said he and others interviewed Sargent starting at 10:08 p.m. Nov. 8, 2005 — before Sargent was placed under arrest.
In that interview, Sargent said he had last seen Harrington on Oct. 31, 2005, but that they had talked on the phone the previous night, Sharpe said.
Sargent said in the interview that he, Triplett and Dalrymple were together all night Nov. 7, 2005, at Sargent’s home, Sharpe said.
Sargent told police that he became aware of Harrington’s death the morning of Nov. 8, 2005, through a phone call from a friend named Bill, Sharpe said.
He also told law enforcement that he would put up the money for Harrington to buy cocaine from Raleigh and that they would split the profits, Sharpe testified.
Sargent said that Harrington owed him some money but that they would be even after Harrington went for more drugs, Sharpe said.
Sargent took a break from the interview for about 20 minutes and when he returned, Sharpe said he and another agent informed Sargent that they knew Harrington was at the house the previous night.
As Sargent ended the interview and got up to leave, he was arrested at 12:09 a.m., Sharpe said.


Phone record evidence
Prosecutors also questioned Linda McClure, a representative from Carolina West wireless, who created a timeline of all the incoming and outgoing calls made from Sargent’s phone Nov. 7-8, 2005.
The jury also heard Friday recordings of several jailhouse calls made and received by Sargent between Nov. 10, 2005, and Nov. 22, 2005. The scratchy recordings were sometimes difficult to understand, and jurors were provided transcripts.
In the call excerpts, Sargent said he rode to Sleepy Hollow with Dalrymple, not Triplett.
Sargent said in another call that Harrington was still alive while at the Poplar Hill Drive home and that he walked to the car himself.
“I thought it was scare tactics,” Sargent said in one portion of the recording, adding in another conversation that he thought they were going to take Harrington out in the woods or leave him in the trunk.
He also said at one time that he planned to make a statement to police and that he already had access to Dalrymple’s statement.
“Kyle is pointing every ... finger he’s got at me,” Sargent said in the call.
The trial continues Monday morning.