After a day-long rampage through parts of Bladen and Robeson counties on Friday, John Franklin Hester stood before a judge at the Bladen County Courthouse on Monday to face his consequences.
Charged with first-degree murder for the death of Rudolph Hughes; assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury for the attack of Wade Kelly; and robbery with a dangerous weapon and second-degree kidnapping of Margaret Hammonds, Hester exited the courtroom some 10 minutes later, head down and eyes to the floor.
Hester is also a suspect in Friday’s murder of a former pastor in Robeson County. However, the death of the 83-year-old Rev. Charles Jackson is still under investigation and no warrants have been issued, Maj. Howard Branch of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday.
He will face charges for the attempted robbery of an Allenton store, where the clerk foiled Hester’s plans by pulling a gun on him when he threatened her with a knife on Friday morning.
Hester will be transferred at the request of the Robeson County Sheriff’s office to face charges for those offenses when all warrants have been issued, Bladen County Sheriff Steve Bunn said Thursday morning.
Shortly before 8 a.m. on Friday morning, the Bladenboro Police Department received the first of many calls that would involve Hester throughout the day. A disturbance at the home of Rudolph Hughes at 304 Bethel St., in Bladenboro, led to Hughes’ murder and an assault on his grandson, Wade Kelly.
Reports showed Hughes gave Hester a ride early Friday morning. After arriving back at the Bethel Street residence, an altercation broke out. Kelly received lacerations to his neck before running out the back door and down the street to seek help.
Hughes also received neck lacerations and at least one stab wound to the chest. He died after being airlifted to New Hanover Medical Center.
Hester apparently fled the home and made his way to Antioch Grocery and Grill in the Allenton community of Robeson County, where he attempted to rob the clerk of the store. When he grabbed her and threatened her with a knife, reports said, she reached behind the counter, where she pulled out a .32-caliber revolver and pointed it in Hester’s face.
Later Friday afternoon, Hester went to the home of Margaret Hammonds on N.C. Hwy. 41 in Bladen County, where he asked to use her phone. Reportedly knowing Hester, Hammonds allowed him in the house, where he proceeded to rob her of a jar of coins at knife-point.
When her phone rang, distracting Hester, Hammonds was able to flee the home and hide in the woods until he left her driveway. She then returned to her residence, where she phoned authorities.
Around the same time, Robeson County officers were only a few miles away, responding to a call involving the homicide of the Rev. Charles Jackson on Singletary Church Road. The case is still being investigated and no warrants had been issued as of press time.
A manhunt for Hester, involving authorities from Bladenboro Police Department, the Bladen County Sheriff’s Department, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Department, the North Carolina Highway Patrol and the SBI, went on throughout the day as he continued to criss-cross the county line.
After receiving a report that Hester was driving a stolen green Dodge truck, authorities chased him to Hwy. 211 after he was spotted by a Robeson County officer. Hester dumped the truck at 9331 Hwy. 211, where he fled on foot into the woods. Canine officers were brought in from both counties to assist with the search.
As the search closed in, Hester left the woods and hid under a mobile home just past the Robeson County line, where he was found shortly after 6 p.m. He was brought by Bladen County officers back to Bladen County to face charges.
Hester is currently being held in a safekeeping psychiatric unit at the Department of Corrections, Bunn said Thursday morning.