The history-making capital murder case trial for David Isaiah Godwin of Morehead City ended early Tuesday afternoon when a Carteret County jury, after deliberating about two hours, handed down a death penalty sentence.
Godwin was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Wendy Tamagne earlier this month.
Godwin will be transported to Central Prison in Raleigh where he will be placed on death row. A date for execution has not been set, and no appeal has been filed.
The trial is the first death penalty trial heard in Carteret County since 1992. That trial was for a Craven County murder but was held in Carteret to be heard before an impartial jury. Records could not be found documenting the last time someone was sentenced to death by a Carteret County court for a crime committed here.
The office of District Attorney Scott Thomas explained in a press release Tuesday the prosecution’s reasons for seeking the death penalty.
“We committed to the family of Wendy that we would seek justice in her murder. In this case, we decided to seek the death penalty due to the aggravating factors present,” Thomas stated. “Every murder is cruel by its very nature, but the death in this case was especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel.
In his closing arguments to the jury Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney David Spence said, “It’s time to deliver justice.”
“This was the most horrific murder ever in this county. It was a pitiless, heartless and brutal murder of an innocent young woman. If this isn’t the time for the death penalty, then when is it?”
Spence said Godwin could have stopped attacking Tamagne at any point, but chose not to.
“He asked you to give him what he didn’t give Wendy,” he told the jury.
Before being released to deliberate Godwin’s sentence, Superior Court Judge Joshua Willey, presiding, told jurors their duty was, “to decide, from all the evidence presented in both phases of the trial (guilt, and then sentencing), what the facts are,” he said. “You are the sole judges of each witness.”
Willey said that in order for the jury to recommend death, the state must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt:
- that one or more aggravating circumstance existed
- that mitigating circumstances are insufficient to outweigh any aggravating circumstances
- that any aggravating circumstances found are sufficiently substantial to call for imposition of the death penalty when considered with any mitigating circumstances
The jury was required to find from the evidence the existence of one or more of forty possible mitigating circumstances, including:
- whether the murder was committed while Godwin was under the influence of mental or emotional disturbance
- whether the Godwin’s capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct was impaired
- whether Godwin is remorseful
- whether Godwin can have a positive influence on others, even in prison
- whether his life has value to others
Godwin was charged in the July 4, 2016 beating, strangling, stabbing and dismembering Wendy Tamagne, 38, at her Country Club Apartment in Morehead City. He had fled the county and later turned himself in to Warrenton, Oregon authorities. He was extradited back to North Carolina.
Godwin’s trial began March 25, with the first week dedicated to seating a jury of 12 regular jurors and three alternates. Spence and assistant district attorneys Ashley Eatmon and Augustus Willis led the prosecution. The defense was led by attorneys Ernest Conner of Greenville and Philip Clark of Carteret County. Willey presided over the trial.
The jury found Godwin guilty on April 12 of first degree murder with malice, premeditation and deliberation, first degree felony murder by means of robbery with a dangerous weapon, first degree felony murder by means of common law robbery, first degree felony murder by means of felonious dismemberment/or destroying of human remains and first degree murder by lying in wait.
Thomas thanked the jury for their service, stating, “We are very appreciative of the jury for their work in this case. They have devoted nearly one month of their lives to this case from jury selection to the final sentence. They have had to listen to and observe gruesome evidence during this trial. They have used their good judgment and common sense to reach guilty verdicts and a sentence.”
He also commended the efforts of his staff and local and state authorities.
“My staff members who prosecuted this case spent months preparing this capital case for trial and nearly one month in court from jury selection through sentencing. They were well prepared and demonstrated their professional abilities on a very tough assignment. The Morehead City Police Department, State Bureau of Investigation, and the State Crime Lab worked diligently to solve this case and provide the evidence needed for a conviction.”