SANFORD, N.C. (WNCN) — Lee County deputies arrested a suspect in the murder of an 80-year-old woman who was found dead in her home Sunday evening.
Investigators charged 37-year-old Kenneth Earl Allen of Sanford with the murder of Norma Smith Brown. Allen also faces charges of first-degree burglary, robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a motor vehicle, and possession of stolen goods.
One of Brown’s family members found her body Sunday evening at her home in the 100 block of Polly Lane. Brown lived alone, but relatives own several homes along the private drive that runs through the rural property.
Captain Jeff Johnston, the chief detective for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, said Brown did not know her attacker. He said evidence showed that Allen was on “a drug bender” and was looking for money and items he could use in order to buy more drugs.
Johnson said Allen went to Brown’s home to ask for money, but when the elderly woman refused, Allen attacked her. Arrest warrants said Allen stole Brown’s purse, cellphone, walking cane, a wallet with cash inside, and a 2010 Nissan Rogue.
Deputies recovered the SUV on Charlotte Avenue, about three miles away from Brown’s home. Officers found Allen in a vacant home on McIver Street, not far from the abandoned vehicle.
Arrest warrants said Allen used a knife, but investigators have not identified a cause of death in this case. Brown’s sister-in-law said she heard from deputies that it appeared Brown tried to fight back, but was overpowered by her younger attacker.
The family said Brown was a strong Christian woman, and they are comforted by their belief she is at peace in heaven.
Allen is back behind bars and being held without bond. He spent most of the past 15 years in a prison serving a sentence for armed robberies and assault with a deadly weapon. The 37-year-old’s Department of Corrections online database lists nearly 13 years of incarceration.
Detectives said Allen was not initially a suspect in the case, but while deputies were canvassing parts of Sanford Tuesday night, they got a tip from someone who suspected Allen’s involvement in something. Captain Johnson said evidence came together and investigators determined Allen was their suspect in the murder.
He had his first court appearance in this case Wednesday morning before a Lee County judge. Several deputies escorted Allen into the courtroom with his ankles chained and a leather strap around his waist, holding down his handcuffs.
Prosecutors said they plan to present the case to a grand jury for indictment on March 11 and there will be a probable cause hearing on March 13. Brown’s family members told CBS 17 they want to attend the upcoming hearing.