A1 A1
Juvenile judge considers evidence in 17-year-old's slaying case

Police officers testified Friday that a Johnson City teenager planned to skip town after a deadly shooting, but no one answered his calls after the incident.

Darius Adler, 17, was charged with first-degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, sale of a controlled substance and simple possession of marijuana after the March 10 shooting.

He’s accused of shooting Daniel King at point-blank range, some of the shots while he was standing over the fallen victim. It happened in the parking lot of Plymouth Ridge Apartments, 2560 Plymouth Road, where the two planned to meet.

Friday’s hearing in a juvenile courtroom was to determine probable cause that Adler committed the offense and whether or not his case would remain in juvenile court or be transferred to adult court. Adler will be 18 years old on July 23.

Johnson City Police Det. Shane Malone testified that during a break from interviewing Adler after the shooting, the teen and his mother — who was present during the interrogation — were recorded having a conversation between themselves.

“He told his mother that he had made some phone calls, and if they had answered he would have been gone,” Malone said. “He said the thing he regretted was that no one answered.”

Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Green granted, in part, a request from the Johnson City Press to attend the hearing, but limited that to testimony from the lead police investigator and a juvenile probation officer. Green said the media could not take photographs and would have to leave the courtroom during testimony about Adler’s mental history or any Department of Children’s Services witnesses.

King reportedly met with Adler in the parking lot of Plymouth Ridge Apartments after Adler answered an ad King place online about a weapon he wanted to sell.

Malone testified that he interviewed Adler the same day after witness accounts pegged him as a suspect. The interview took place at the police department and Adler’s mother was present, Malone said. They both signed a Miranda rights form agreeing Adler would forego his right to remain silent and would give a statement.

Initially, Adler said he had not left his apartment that morning, according to Malone, but later told the investigator that he had made a deal on an arms trader website to buy a gun from King.

Buying and reselling guns was apparently something Adler did regularly, according to police testimony, but his intention that day was to rob the person who showed up to sell the gun.

“No words were spoken,” Malone testified. “(Adler) pulled out his gun and started shooting. The victim was on the ground rolling around, yelling for help, and Adler stood over him and continued to fire his 9mm pistol, shooting at King 17 times so he could steal King’s guns.

“He said he needed money. It was all about the money,” Malone said. When asked if Adler showed any regret for shooting King, Malone said “His exact words were he had no remorse.”

Malone said there was evidence two AR-15 rifles had been in the trunk of a car King drove that day, but the weapons were no longer there.

He said Adler never admitted taking any guns from King, but “evidence at the scene contradicted those statements and the guns were later found in his apartment.”

Other evidence found in the apartment where Adler lived was a 9mm Tarus handgun that he told Malone was used to shoot King.

The 9mm Taurus handgun King was going to sell was found under a red F150 pick-up truck which also had several bullet holes in it.

“The gun was fully loaded,” but was in the “off” position, meaning the gun wouldn’t fire unless that switch was flipped, Malone said.

Defense attorney Scott Shults objected when Assistant District Attorney Kelly Lowe handed King’s autopsy report to the officer. Green allowed Malone to testify on a narrow scope as to cause and manner of death. The cause of King’s death was multiple gunshot wounds and the manner was homicide.

On cross-examination, Shults asked the officer about drugs found in Adler’s apartment where he lived with his mother. Malone said 20 Xanax pills were found as well as marijuana.

Shults went on to ask Malone if, during his interrogation of Adler, the teen exhibited any signs of intoxication, but Malone said “No.”

“Was he nodding off?” Shults asked.

“I noticed him closing his eyes … I don’t believe he was nodding off as far as being under the influence of drugs,” Malone answered.

“He kept saying he killed somebody and at one point he said, ‘I took his soul,’” Malone testified.

Shults pressed Malone on another statement Adler made.

“He goes on to say ‘I’m telling you what you want to hear,’ didn’t he?” Shults asked. Malone responded that the teen had made that statement.

Juvenile probation officer Allen Rutledge testified that Adler was under his supervision after the teen was convicted — referred to as adjudicated in the juvenile system — in a reckless aggravated assault case in December 2020. The details of that case were not divulged, but Rutledge said most of his “visits” were by phone due to COVID, but he had no indication that Adler may have had mental health or drug issues.

At least four other witnesses testified, including a DCS worker and a health care worker, but the substance of that testimony was kept from the media.

Green adjourned court shortly before 4 p.m., but did not render a decision on transferring the case to adult court.

She said there was still additional evidence she needed to consider and continued the hearing to June 18 at 1 p.m.

Road to rhododendron gardens temporarily closed

ROAN MOUNTAIN — You’ll need to don your walking shoes to reach the Cloudland Rhododendron Gardens and the Roan Mountain Day Use Area after damage brought the closure of an access road.

Pisgah National Forest announced the temporary closure of Appalachian Road, North Carolina Route 1406, the access road that leads from Carvers Gap up to Toll House Gap, the Roan Mountain Day Use Area and the Cloudland Rhododendron Gardens.

The temporary closure due to road failure went into effect on Tuesday.

“Crews are currently assessing the road damage to determine the necessary repairs,” the Pisgah National Forest reported on its web site. It said the road is closed to motorized use, but pedestrian use is allowed. The road is closed during the winter months and there is a permanent gate at the intersection with the state highway at Carvers Gap.

Adrianne Robiaco, public affairs specialist with North Carolina National Forests, said crews have not yet determined the cause of the road damage and it is not yet possible to determine how long it will take to make the repairs and reopen the road.

The closure comes at a time when there will be much traffic on the mountain.

The annual Roan Groan bicycle race, which finishes at Carver’s Gap, will be held Saturday. Robiaco said the closure should not have an impact on the race because the race does not use any of the road.

The spectacular blooming of the Catawba rhododendrons in the Cloudland Gardens will occur in about two weeks, and that normally draws large crowds and traffic on the road.

Robiaco said access to the gardens is still available on foot, with two routes that can be taken. One is to walk the closed road from the gate at Carvers Gap to the garden loop trails. The distance is 3.8 miles.

The second route is to hike the Appalachian Trail southbound from Carvers Gap to the Cloudland Hotel site. The distance is 4.8 miles. From the hotel site, the paved parking lot for the Cloudland Gardens can be seen. The garden loop trails do not intersect with the Appalachian Trail, but the garden trails can be accessed from the other end of the paved parking lot.

Both the road and the Appalachian Trail are moderately steep. The Appalachian Trail is also rocky and suitable hiking shoes should be worn.

Criterium considerations

On another matter, the Elizabethton Police Department urges motorists to be aware of road closures in downtown Elizabethton and use extra caution because of the Ballad Health Criterium bicycle competition on Sunday. Roads affected by the race will begin to be shut down at 6:30 a.m. and closures will continue until 6 p.m.

The race course follows downtown streets: Hattie Avenue, North and South Sycamore Street, East E Street, and North and South Riverside.

Streets will be closed a block away from the race route to form an outer perimeter for safety of the racers and spectators.

Elizabethton Police officers at the closed intersections will assist race participants and spectators, as well as affected residents and those attending church services at First Christian Church on Hattie Avenue and Elizabethton Alliance Church on East Elk Avenue to parking as needed.

Liberty Bell hosting second drive-through vaccination event

Liberty Bell Middle School is hosting another drive-through COVID-19 vaccination event later this month for first and second doses.

The event will be held on June 14 from 2-6 p.m., and is open to everyone 12 and older. It will be held 21 days after the school’s first vaccine event to provide second doses to those who received their Pfizer-BioNTech shots in May.

For more information, or to download consent forms for those under 18, visit www.jcschools.org/News/202#sthash.u5VcdYSS.dpbs

Higher rental fees may push farmers market out of downtown pavilion

Although they want to stay downtown, organizers of the Johnson City Farmers Market are concerned that an increase in the rate they’re paying to rent the Pavilion at Founders Park could eventually force them to relocate.

Linda Evans, the vice president of the farmers market, said the organization was originally paying $1 a year when the pavilion was managed by the Johnson City Development Authority.

That fee increased to $125 per month last year. Now, with management of downtown facilities reverting to the city, that fee is $150 per day, which Evans said is beyond what the organization can afford.

“Our vendors want to stay at the Pavilion,” Evans said. “That’s where we want to be ... but to go from $125 a month to $150 a day ... for our agency it was just beyond reason.”

In August, the city terminated its management agreements with the JCDA for King Commons Park, Founders Park and the Pavilion at Founders Park so it could move special events in-house.

In May, the City Commission voted to set fees for rentals at downtown facilities. The fee structure commissioners approved last month maintains the same rates charged under the original agreement with the JCDA. It does, however, provide a discount for nonprofits.

Reserving the Founders Park pavilion is $300 for half a day, but nonprofit organizations like the farmers market can receive a 50% rate reduction, bringing their fee to $150.

City officials said they’re still waiting for the farmers market to submit the nonprofit paperwork necessary to receive that discount. The organization is, however, paying the $150 rate while the city waits for that documentation.

Currently, the farmers market occurs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday. It generally lasts from May through October.

Evans said the farmers market has started looking for other locations and has managed to find an alternative spot, which is not in downtown Johnson City.

“That’s an option,” she said. “It’s not one that we want to take by any means, but it’s an option that’s available to us should that be what we have to do as a market.”

The market’s revenue comes from a yearly $40 membership fee and a $12 per-day fee to setup at the pavilion.

With social distancing requirements being lifted, the farmers market can set up more booths in the pavilion, but Evans said there’s no guarantee that all those spots will be filled.

Market organizers want the majority of those spots to be reserved for farmers selling produce, and many of those items aren’t ready for sale until late June or July. Organizers are now hoping to find creative ways to fill the remaining spaces until produce vendors are ready to reserve spots.

On Friday morning, Evans said, the organization hadn’t yet heard back from the city, but she was confident city officials would be receptive to the organization’s concerns.

“They want the market there as much as we want to be there,” she said.

City Manager Pete Peterson said the City Commission sets the fee schedule.

“Unless the City Commission alters that fee schedule, it’s a policy decision,” Peterson said. “There’s not much staff can do with it.”

The original fee schedule was approved by the City Commission years ago, and at the time, Peterson said, the JCDA opted to charge the farmers market a different rate.

With the number of available slots at the pavilion, he added, the farmers market should be able to cover the cost of reservations.

“I think $150 is a very reasonable fee for the use of the facility,” Peterson said.

Evans noted that the farmers market plays an important role in the social fabric of downtown Johnson City.

“There’s a lot of community interaction, and I think that’s priceless,” Evans said.