Durham County

Two found guilty of robbery and shooting a club promoter as he jumped off balcony

James Thorpe, 25, of Durham
James Thorpe, 25, of Durham Submitted

James Thorpe, 25, and Joshua Melvin, 23, both of Durham, have been found guilty of shooting a nightclub promoter during a robbery and home invasion in Morrisville in March 2015, Durham County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Tamara Gibbs said.

The two men were convicted on charges of commerce by robbery, interfering with commerce by robbery and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Thorpe and Melvin and co-conspirators Jahid Preston Diggs and Ervin Montez Alston, Jr., were indicted by a federal grand jury on March 16, 2016. Diggs and Alston were previously sentenced for their roles, Diggs to 180 months imprisonment and Austin to 192 months.

On Wednesday, Thorpe was sentenced to 480 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release and Melvin to 444 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release.

“Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions has directed that U.S. Attorneys’ Offices step up their work, in partnership with state and local law enforcement, on effective strategies to reduce violent crime,” U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce said. “This includes federal prosecution of persons responsible for significant violent crimes in our respective districts. This case is an excellent example of how this strategy can work.”

The 2015 robbery’s intended target was a promoter for a nightclub called Vegas Night Life. Investigators showed that Thorpe and Melvin affixed a GPS tracking device to the promoter’s vehicle to track his whereabouts.

Prosecutors contended both men entered a home in Morrisville that was occupied by several people including a mother and her little girl. The two men threatened the child in exchange for money, Gibbs said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina stated that the little girl was pulled from her mother’s arms, forced into a bedroom and threatened with being drowned as the robbers demanded money from present adults.

When a woman inside the residence tried to intervene, she was repeatedly beaten, Gibbs said.

The promoter — Thorpe’s and Melvin’s original, intended target — jumped off a second floor balcony, but the escape attempt failed, Gibbs said, nad he was shot while in the air.

The gunmen led police on a car chase fleeing the crime scene before being apprehened.

“This was teamwork at its best. Our investigators work hard to get violent offenders off the street,” said Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews. “Thanks to our law enforcement partners, justice was served in this important case.”

The Sheriff’s Office collaborated with the Morrisville Police Department and the FBI as part of the FBI Safe Street Task Force in the investigation.

Police seek info on missing man

Durham police are asking for information about Alton Dewayne “Pa Pa” Sanders who has been missing for almost two months.

Sanders, 29, of Wabash Street was last seen during the late night hours of February 15 in McDougald Terrace.

Sanders is described as a black male, 5 feet 6 inches tall and 140 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes and tattoos on both arms.

Anyone with information about Sanders’ whereabouts is asked to call Investigator E. Hines at 919-560-4440, ext. 29322 or CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200.

CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks