LANCASTER — A Lancaster man with Satan tattooed over his right eye and a criminal history of assault and burglary is accused of killing a father who had been missing for more than a month, and then hiding his body in woods 20 feet away from the dead mans brothers house, deputies said on Friday.
David Adam Pate, 24, has been charged with murder and remains at the Lancaster County Detention Center without bond, according to a Lancaster County Sheriffs Office news release. He had been in jail on a public disorderly conduct charge since Nov. 11.
On Saturday, a group of children playing in the woods near Mullis Circle found the decomposing body of Rickey Wesley James, a 33-year-old man who family members said had been missing since about Oct. 18.
Deputies say Pate and Rickey James went into the woods alone. There, Pate killed James, deputies say, and hid his body under a pile of brush. Deputies have not established a motive.
Rickey James, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., had been living with his brother in Bennettsville but spent his weekends in Lancaster, said one of his brothers, Antwan James. On his most recent trip, he left his brothers home early in the morning and never returned. Attempts to reach him on a cell phone were unsuccessful.
On Monday, Antwan James said his brother last sent a text message to his girlfriend saying he was with an acquaintance drinking Moscato wine. He said his brother had been found only 20 feet away from his house. He claimed that there had been a persistent foul odor in the air. Once his brother was found on Saturday, he realized he was smelling his brothers decomposed body.
He said attempts to initiate a search for his brother were unsuccessful after police said Rickey James disappearance did not meet the criteria for a missing persons case because nothing indicated foul play in his disappearance. Rickey James had also disappeared in the past without telling family only to resurface days later.
Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. James, Sheriff Barry Faile said in the news release. We suspected Pate almost immediately but had to wait on lab results to prove it. We are thankful he is in jail where he belongs.
Those results included DNA Faile said deputies found on the body. He would not elaborate on what kind of DNA was discovered. Deputies learned of Pates possible involvement after taking statements from family members and people in the community who knew Rickey James and Pate were last seen together. They knew each other, he said.
Deputies suspect alcohol might have been involved, but have not uncovered any indications of drug use during the incident. On Monday, Antwan James said he had heard rumors that his brother and an acquaintance went into the woods before that acquaintance attacked him, and possibly tried to rob him. Faile said Rickey James might have had some items stolen off him, but stressed that deputies do not know why Pate allegedly killed him.
No weapons were recovered from the scene, he said.
How Rickey James died is still under investigation, said Lancaster County Coroner Mike Morris. Autopsy results have not returned, and officials still have not determined a preliminary cause of death. Coroners are planning more tests, he said, and will send Rickey James body to an anthropologist at North Carolina State University who might be able to help officials discern how he died.
He was so badly decomposed, you couldnt tell, Morris said, adding that forensic pathologists would be unable to really determine a manner of death because there was little evidence that could be recovered from the body.
The anthropologist, Morris said, will look at Rickey James bones to determine if they had been hit by a bullet or cut by a knife.
Pate had most recently been arrested two weeks ago after a man reported that Pate, who had a Mullis Circle address, was drunk and walking through the woods possibly carrying a knife, according to a Lancaster County Sheriffs report. Deputies found Pate near the woods across from Wade Street. They did not find any weapons on him.
Pate told police he drank a large amount of alcohol and wished to go to jail, the report states. Deputies obliged, charging Pate with public disorderly conduct before taking him to jail. There, they found burnt marijuana in a metal pipe in Pates front right pants pocket.
Pates criminal history includes a conviction for burglary, for which he served two years probation, according to records with the State Law Enforcement Division. For the next several years, he would be placed on probation, go to jail and then return on another probation sentence at least six times, said Pete OBoyle with the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
In July 2010, he was sent to the state Department of Corrections after he was sentenced to six months for failure to stop for a blue light and attempted burglary with malicious intent, said Clark Newsom, corrections department spokesman. He was released on probation on Oct. 1 that year. Six days later, SLED records show he was charged with public disorderly conduct. He was made to pay a fine.
Twice in 2011, Pate was charged with and convicted of public disorderly conduct. Later that year, he was charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, and sentenced to probation again. His probation was twice revoked, once in 2009 and then again in 2011.
He served his second tenure in a state prison after he was convicted of third-degree burglary and assault and battery starting on Jan. 17, 2012, Newsom said. He was released on May 1, 2012. He was sent to the department of corrections a third time on Nov. 13, 2012 after he was convicted of shoplifting and violating his probation, which was later revoked a third time. Two months earlier, he had been convicted of public disorderly conduct but given credit for the 20 days he served in jail, records show.