Jury recommends 30 year sentence in robbery of Wilson pastor

A jury on Tuesday recommended 41-year old Allen Eldon Fox, of Wilson, spend the next 30 years of his life in prison less than an hour after the same jury convicted him of felony conjoint robbery.

Assistant District Attorney Aaron Taber convinced jurors that Fox, along with another unknown suspect, attacked a Wilson pastor in June 2018, leaving him unconscious in the parking lot of his own church and absconding with $540 in stolen cash.

Fox was convicted for his role in the attack, which included flagging down the pastor and asking for help. The pastor’s generosity was met with a punch to the eye, then another in the back of the neck — by Fox —  knocking him unconscious as the pastor attempted to rush a second attacker entering the fray while brandishing a rifle. 

Defense Attorney James Gilmartin’s plea that the police had the wrong man and that the investigation was incomplete and partially invalid failed to move the jurors who recommended a sentence three times the minimum in the case. 

Taber defended the investigation and the evidence telling jurors that a lot of strategies go into making a case, adding that the defense was wrong in trying to vilify a Healdton police officer for aiding in the investigation.

Taber asked jurors to use “common sense” judgement in reaching their verdict, to weigh the credibility of the testimony from law enforcement officers against those from “a guy who says it’s no big deal to run from the cops.”

Taber added that though the victim admitted to being wrong about the eye color of his attacker during the 2-3 minute engagement, he had no trouble picking Fox out of a police lineup nor identifying him in open court, despite Fox having changed his appearance since the attack by cutting his hair and shaving his beard, which Taber illustrated by showing jurors an earlier, undated photo of Fox.

Fox faced a minimum sentence of 10 years in a state penitentiary, while facing a maximum penalty of life in prison due to a prior felony conviction from a guilty plea of trying to bring contraband into the county jail.

“I want the jury to know we are extremely grateful for their diligent service in Mr. Fox’s trial,” District Attorney Craig Ladd said. “We believe their verdict is certainly supported by the evidence in the case, and their recommended punishment was warranted by the violent nature of the offense. We know that today’s outcome has brought a degree of closure to the victim and his family. Also, we are appreciative for the efforts of the Carter County Sheriff’s Department,  in particular Deputies Joel Ramirez and Eric Yarbrough, for their investigative efforts and testimonies related to the case.  In addition, I want to commend Assistant District Attorney Aaron Taber for his preparedness and his excellent presentation of the case to the jury over the past two days.”  

Gilmartin stated that he would be appealing the jury’s decision.