LENOIR — A jury needed less than 45 minutes of deliberation to find a Lenoir woman guilty of first-degree murder in a 2013 shooting death in Caldwell County Superior Court on Friday.
Nancy Benge Austin, 62, of Lenoir, was given a life sentence in prison without parole for the killing of 20-year-old Dylan Joseph Short by the Honorable Lisa C. Bell, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, following her conviction.
The trial lasted two weeks and came to an end Friday when the 12-member jury panel reached its verdict.
Following three days of jury selection, opening statements were made by both sides on Thursday, May 16.
Assistant District Attorneys Jamie Adams and Lance Sigmon presented the State’s case, and Defense Attorney Sam Snead laid out his client’s claims. Both sides had multiple witnesses who provided testimony during the course of five days of evidence presentation.
The case went to the jury on Friday, May 24 around 4:15 p.m. following closing arguments by attorneys for both sides. Just before 5 p.m., the jurors returned with the guilty verdict.
“We’re happy to give closure to the victims of this case that is five and a half years old,” District Attorney Scott Reilly said. “We’d like to commend the investigators, Mrs. Adams and Mr. Sigmon for their hard work in this case.”
Sigmon and Adams talked about the relationship between the victim and Austin’s daughter, Sarah, and outlined how the events of that December day played out, noting that they had happily been together the prior two days. They also told the jurors of Austin’s anger and disdain for Short, the father of her grandson.
Austin took the stand in her defense, giving her recollection of the events that took place at her residence on December 26, 2013, when Short was killed by her from a gunshot wound to the head.
Short went to Austin’s home to speak with Sarah on the day of his death, and they were engaged in a confrontation outside Austin’s home when the defendant used a Taurus .38-caliber revolver and shot Short, claiming she was protecting herself and her daughter.
Snead argued that his client had immunity from criminal liability and the right to defend herself and her daughter.
An eyewitness for the state testified that he saw Short lying on the ground begging for his life as Austin stood over him and fired the fatal shot.
Adams told jurors that Short tried to defend himself after Austin fired one shot by attempting to take the gun from her. But when he found himself on the ground, Austin was hovering over him, pulling the trigger once with no bullet in the chamber before stepping back and firing the deadly shot.
“Dylan didn’t have a choice or a chance,” Adams said. “He’s on the ground. She stands over him and pulls the trigger. He heard a click, an empty chamber. That click is your premeditation, your deliberation. Your verdict is the voice and conscience of this community.”
Austin will serve her period of incarceration in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.
The case was investigated by Doug Dupell of the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Adams and Sigmon handled prosecution for the State with assistance from Legal Assistants David DiMaggio and Belinda Gaither.