Man sentenced to life for Chicken Bridge murder
Brian Keith Whitfield, who was charged with killing Daphne Marie Forster, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Whitfield, 25, wrote a letter of confession and also told his attorneys more details about how and why he killed Forster just before Thursday's hearing in Chatham County Superior Court.
In exchange for pleading guilty to killing Forster on Oct. 10, 2012, Whitfield was spared the possibility of the death penalty.
Whitfield, arms and neck covered with black tattoos, wore prison pants and a white T-shirt. He answered clearly when the judge went over the transcript with him, but once the district attorneys gave the facts of the case, he slumped in his chair and did not speak again.
Assistant District Attorney Kayley Taber told Superior Court Judge Michael O'Foghludha that Whitfield became angry at Forster because he believed she had disrespected his boss. They argued, but later she agreed to go to his house after work.
Whitfield said he wanted to sell drugs to some of Forster's biker friends.
A friend of Forster told investigators that she got a phone call that night from Forster, who said she was in a room staring at a big Nazi flag. Taber showed the judge a photograph of a Nazi flag in Whitfield's bedroom.
Whitfield overheard Forster on the phone, Taber said.
"We believe Mr. Whitfield became suspicious and angry at that moment," Taber said.
Whitfield assaulted Forster but then let her leave the house. However, when she got in her car, he dragged her back in the house, knocked her to the floor, wrapped her head and mouth with duct tape and strangled her to death with a cell phone cord, Taber said.
Whitfield then backed her car up to his house, put her body in the trunk and drove south into Chatham County to the isolated area of Chicken Bridge, and set her body on fire.
During the early morning hours, some people driving across the bridge saw a fire in the bushes next to the bridge. They stopped to investigate and saw a body, Taber said.
They tried to put out the fire by pouring bottles of water on it while they waited for law enforcement officers, she said.
Forster's car was later found in a motel parking lot in Durham. The keys were left in the ignition, a $20 bill was plainly visible and Forster's purse was on the seat, Taber said. Clearly, Whitfield meant for someone to steal the car, Taber said.
Cell phone records and surveillance footage from stores in the area showed Whitfield and his roommate Caleb Shaddie Wyland in the area of the motel after Forster was killed, Taber said.
Wyland also was charged with first-degree murder but, in his confession, Whitfield said that Wyland did not participate in the murder or the disposal of the body.
Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall said that investigators will review the new evidence before he decides whether to pursue the first-degree murder charge against Wyland.
Forster served two years in the U.S. Navy, loved to travel, had just moved to North Carolina from Oregon and Washington area and liked to snowboard with her friends, according to letters Taber read about Forster.
The letters spoke about her outgoing personality, sense of humor, beauty and compassion and their grief and anger at her loss.
Her father, Jerry Forster, read a statement saying that it was difficult not to become enraged about what happened.
"It's hard not to think about it and suppress the feelings," Jerry Forster said. "Unless you've lost a child, it's very hard to put into words, the loss, the emptiness, the sorrow. You feel it in your gut every single day."
Forster said he and his family wanted Whitfield to get the death penalty and that they did not approve of the plea agreement. He asked the judge to reject the plea bargain.