Four days before Cora Campbell was found stabbed to death in her home in December 2012, a man who did odd jobs for the 76-year-old Rock Hill woman tried to take $600 from her bank account to pay his rent.
Terrance Staley admitted in court Tuesday that he tried to send money from two of Campbell’s debit cards to an online PayPal account.
Staley, 30, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to financial card fraud – but he denies any role in Campbell’s stabbing death.
“I never would do anything to Ms. Cora,” Staley told police after his arrest on the fraud charge in May 2013, in a statement read in court Tuesday. “I think whoever did it should get shot.”
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After Tuesday’s hearing, Rock Hill police Capt. Brent Allmon said Staley remains a suspect in Campbell’s killing.
Still, despite Staley’s admitting to police that he had access to Campbell’s house and confessing to the plot to get the money, he has not been charged in connection with her death and did not admit any involvement during police interrogation after the credit card scam came to light.
Until Tuesday, police had not made public that Staley had been charged with stealing Campbell’s money four days before she died, or that he had been questioned in connection with her killing. All police have ever said publicly came in late 2013, when detectives said they had a “strong suspect” in the unsolved slaying.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Campbell – whose husband had died nine days earlier at a nursing home – hadn’t been seen for days by her family. Police and family went to the house to do a welfare check and found her dead from “multiple stab wounds,” said Chris Jones, the 16th Circuit assistant solicitor who prosecuted Staley for the debit card scam.
When police questioned Staley, Jones said, he told them that he “used to cut grass for the victim, and do odd jobs.”
The investigation showed that on Dec. 10, 2012, Staley tried to transfer money from two of Campbell’s debit cards using his cell phone, Jones said. Staley told investigators that he went to see Campbell to ask to use her credit card to pay his rent, and that he would give her cash to cover the cost, but the transfer never went through.
Campbell even apologized when the transfer didn’t go through online, Staley told police.
“That’s the last time I saw her,” Staley claimed in the written statement in 2013, which was read in court Tuesday.
When confronted by his girlfriend about the unpaid rent, Staley told police, he went back to Campbell’s house on Dec. 11 to try and show the girlfriend that he had tried the rent transfer. He claimed he did not go inside the house and never saw Campbell that day. Staley told police he found out from his mother days later that Campbell had been killed, Jones said.
“There was a lot of suspicion around the defendant,” Jones told visiting Circuit Court Judge DeAndrea Benjamin when he asked her to impose the maximum 10-year sentence for the financial fraud charge.
Police have produced no evidence against Staley in connection with the murder, said his lawyer, 16th Circuit assistant public defender Ashley Anderson.
“Mr. Staley has never been charged with murder,” Anderson said. “He has always maintained to me he had nothing to do with her death.”
Anderson asked Benjamin to sentence Staley to time he had already served while waiting for his case to be resolved – about nine months.
The judge split the difference, giving Staley, who has previous convictions for domestic violence and drugs, five years in prison.
Campbell’s three sisters were in court but did not speak and declined to comment afterward.
After court, Anderson repeated that Staley “adamantly denies” any involvement in Campbell’s killing.
Staley’s mother, Karen Murray, said after the hearing that she also was Campbell’s friend.
“I want it to be clear,” she said. “My son did not harm her.”
Other than when he pleaded guilty, Staley said nothing in court Tuesday.
Nothing about a 76-year-old woman he worked for who tried to help him with $600 – a woman who four days later died from repeated stab wounds to her neck on the floor of her home, a week after burying her husband.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org