PITTSBORO — A superior court judge sentenced a Chapel Hill man to life in prison without parole Thursday for the October murder of a Siler City woman.
Brian Keith Whitfield, 24, pleaded guilty to the first degree murder of Daphne Forster, 38. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for Whitfield in exchange for his guilty plea.
Jerry Forster, the victim’s father, was not happy with the plea deal. His daughter’s murder was “brutal, senseless and premeditated,” he told the court.
“A plea bargain serves no purpose of justice,” Forster said, his voice shaking. “It’s just more pain for family and friends. It’s unnecessary, there’s no just purpose but to let a murderer off for a lesser (sentence).”
A second suspect, Caleb Shaddie Wyland, 25, also will be charged with the first degree murder of Forster at a later time, assistant district attorney Kayley Taber said.
The events of the day Forster was murdered and facts confirmed in subsequent investigation were recounted at Thursday’s hearing.
Whitfield and Wyland were captured on surveillance cameras abandoning Forster’s blue Chevrolet Cavalier – with keys in the ignition, and Forster’s purse, ID and other belongings inside – at a Super 8 motel in Durham in the early morning hours after her death.
The trunk of the car was lined with plastic consistent with plastic wrapped around Forster’s body, which was discovered by motorists in woods off Chicken Bridge Road.
Taber said Whitfield strangled Forster with a cell phone charger in the Chapel Hill home he shared with Wyland, before driving to the woods and lighting Forster’s body on fire.
A can of flame accelerant and latex gloves were found nearby.
An autopsy showed there was no soot in Forster’s lungs, indicating that she was killed before being lit on fire. Though no official cause of death was released, a medical examiner said Forster likely died of asphyxia.
Tattoos, dental records and a metal plate in her arm helped police identify Forster after her mother, Linda Forster of Siler City, reported her daughter missing.
Cell phone records show that Wyland called a taxi to a Bojangles restaurant half a mile away from the Super 8 motel where the two left Forster’s car; they stopped at a Wal-Mart, where they were also caught on surveillance, to purchase cleaning supplies.
Then, they called another taxi to take them home.
In a statement to police before their Oct. 24 arrests, Wyland said he and Whitfield “were home all night and didn’t know what happened to (Forster).”
Whitfield and Forster had a relationship before her murder, prosecutors said, and he was angry about an incident that had happened earlier the day of the murder, when Forster drove him to his boss’ house to pick up a paycheck.
Whitfield’s attorneys told prosecutors that he accused Forster of being disrespectful toward his boss and, as they were arguing in the car, Whitfield pulled the emergency brake, got out and started walking.
Forster drove to a Wal-Mart to cash the check. Later, she went to work at the Carolina Brewery in Pittsboro.
Forster’s cell phone records show twenty calls between her and Whitfield on the night of her death.
At around one a.m., Forster was on a final phone call to a friend in Whitfield’s bedroom, where she described looking at a Nazi flag hanging on the wall.
Whitfield became suspicious of the conversation Forster was having and another argument ensued.
He grabbed her by the throat and, as Forster tried to leave the house, Whitfield forced her back inside.
“They had been fighting all day,” Taber said. “His woman disrespected his boss. This was the motive for him to do what he did.”