State to seek death penalty against Sanford man charged with murdering elderly woman

Local News

SANFORD, N.C. (WNCN) — The state will seek the death penalty for a Sanford man who authorities say was on “a drug bender” when he robbed and then killed an 80-year-old woman inside her home in March.

Kenneth Allen, 37, appeared in a Lee County courtroom Thursday morning and it was there that he learned he could be put to death for the crimes he’s accused of committing in early March.

Allen is charged with robbing and killing 80-year-old Norma Smith Brown inside her home in the 100-block of Polly Lane in Sanford. Brown was found dead inside her home around 7:45 p.m. on March 3.

Allen is also accused of stealing Brown’s SUV.

The 37-year-old is facing charges of murder, first-degree burglary, robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a motor vehicle, and possession of stolen goods.

According to authorities, Brown and Allen did not know each other. Captain Jeff Johnston, the chief detective for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, 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 in March that Brown was a strong Christian woman, and they are comforted by their belief she is at peace in heaven.

Allen has 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. Johnson said evidence came together and investigators determined Allen was their suspect in the murder.

Allen’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 28.

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