2015-10-07 / Front Page

LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE

Musician convicted of murder
By Anne Marie Kyzer

A 23-year-old father will spend the rest of his life behind bars for killing two men at a party in Burke County last fall.

Warner Tolbert III was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury convicted him of malice murder, voluntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

He was accused in the shooting deaths of Likenzie Lee Holliday and Andre Harris, Jr. Both were 24 years old.

Tolbert stood trial last week at the Burke County Courthouse, where the courtroom was filled with family and friends of Tolbert’s and the victims.

More than a dozen witnesses took the stand to recount the events surrounding the shootings that night in Oct. 2014.

According to assistant district attorney Robert Homlar, a birthday party was being held at a house on Lawson Road, a dirt road just off Seven Oaks Road south of Shell Bluff.

The site was formerly known as Dynasty Night Club years ago, and though it’s no longer operated as a night club is still used for parties with cover charges.

Tolbert was there to perform with his band Soulja Valley.

Around 4 a.m., however, a fight broke out between Tolbert and Harris. Some witnesses testified that it was sparked by a dance contest, in which girls were performing a suggestive dance move called twerking.

Homlar said they were never able to fully understand what brought on the dispute, but at some point Tolbert pulled a gun and shot Harris four times in the back as he walked away. Defense attorney Mike Garrett and his client claimed Harris had the gun, dropped it during the dispute and Tolbert picked it up and shot in self-defense.

When Tolbert walked outside the house, Holliday approached him about the shooting and Tolbert shot him in the chest. The defense argued that Tolbert thought Holliday was about to pull a gun and fired in self-defense.

Tolbert had initially been charged with two counts of murder. The jury returned a guilty verdict for the murder charge concerning Harris, but found Tolbert guilty on the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter for killing Holliday. They also convicted him on two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and he pleaded guilty after the trial to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

At the time, Tolbert was serving a felony probation sentence for a robbery committed two years prior.

Superior Court Judge J. Wade Padgett sentenced Tolbert to life in prison without parole for the murder charge and 20 years for voluntary manslaughter. He received five years for each of the firearms convictions.

Homlar called the case tragic, considering that three lives were essentially lost and their families will also pay the price.

“I’m not happy about it,” he said, despite getting the conviction. “These young men all had young children. Tolbert and the victims were all fathers. It’s very sad.”

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