BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- A death penalty case in Brunswick County ended today before it began. Carl Alston, charged with the kidnapping, rape and murder of of a Leland mother more than four years ago pleaded guilty after four days of jury selection.
Burns's remains were found in the trunk of her burnt out car in July 2008. Her family says she was disabled from a drunk driving accident making her unable to fight off Alston.
On the July 2008 night he killed Burns, 49, Alston said he hitchhiked to a Wilmington sex shop and then to the Burger King near the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. The District Attorney says Burns was driving home from a downtown Wilmington bar, but investigators still are not clear on how she and Alston connected.
"What we do know, two hours and 45 minutes after leaving this bar, her car is on fire, and she is in it," DA Jon David said.
Even after a DNA test proved Alston raped Burns, he never confessed to the crimes. It was not until he told cellmates in two different prisons that he admitted to what he did.
Friday, a photo slideshow of Burns played in the background while loved ones told the court about their sister, their mother, their friend.
"My mother had so much to do and give this world, and you have just taken it away," Carrie Burns said.
"She wasn't there the day I picked out my wedding dress," Valerie's daughter Casey Burns said. "She won't be there to help me get ready on my wedding day."
Taking the prosecution's plea deal, Alston will spend life in prison without parole and avoiding a possible death sentence had the case continued to trial. "He realized it was in his best interest to come in here and handle the matter today," defense attorney James Payne said.
As the victim's sister Nan faced the man that changed her family's life for the last time, she had a clear message. "Bon voyage on your journey, and may it lead you straight to hell," she said. With the case now behind them, family and friends say they are having a Valerie weekend to celebrate her life.
It will be full of all her favorite foods and movies.