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Three men plead guilty, sentenced in cold case murder

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WILMINGTON, NC (NEWS RELEASE) -- Three of four co-defendants in a 2007 murder were sentenced in New Hanover County Court today. Adam Elijah Ward, Randy Travis Owens, and Nicholas Matasich appeared before Judge Russell Lanier and entered guilty pleas, and were sentenced for their involvement in the murder of Geoffrey Graham in Ogden. The fourth co-defendant, Christian Dior Jones, entered a plea in June 2010 and was sentenced at the same time. On August 16, 2007 Ward and Jones forced their way into Graham's home. Jones opened fire on Graham, killing him during the execution of a robbery while Owens and Matasich waited in a car outside. Graham's roommate hid after hearing gunshots and escaped unharmed. Graham died at the scene.

With few leads, the case went cold until the summer of 2009 when an individual in Pender County indicated to authorities that he had information about the murder. New Hanover Sheriff's Office Detectives and Investigator J.W. Hedge of the District Attorney's Office were able to determine that this individual's information was credible and reopened the investigation. Jones, Owens, and Matasich were apprehended soon thereafter in New Hanover County. Ward absconded to Maryland where he was arrested by US Marshals. NHSO Detective K. W. Murphy, NHSO Capt. C. Hayes, and Inv. Hedge went to Maryland and interviewed Ward, where he confessed to his involvement. All four co-defendants were charged with First Degree Murder, Felony Conspiracy, Attempted Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon, First Degree Kidnapping, and First Degree Burglary.

All four co-defendants pled guilty and admitted their involvement in the crime. Jones pled guilty to second degree murder, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, and first degree burglary, receiving a 405-514 months in the custody of the Department of Corrections. Ward pled guilty to the same charges, plus conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, receiving 319-401 months. Owens, who set up the robbery, pled to second degree murder and attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to 217-280 months. Matasich pled to accessory after the fact to second degree murder and was sentenced to 72-96 months.

The close cooperation between Investigator Hedge of the DA's Office and the detectives with the New Hanover Sheriff's Office was instrumental in the apprehension and ultimate conviction of all four individuals responsible for the death of Geoffrey Graham. Moreover, the Office of the District Attorney credits the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office for involving Assistant District Attorney Dru Lewis at an early stage in their investigation. Lewis, who served as the prosecutor, was able to respond to the scene the night of the crime and played a role throughout the investigation.

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