Randolph County woman found guilty of first-degree murder

by Keith Barber

After deliberating for just over two hours, a Randolph County jury returned a guilty verdict on firstdegree murder charges against Tamara Jill Bean in the 2008 shooting death of her longtime boyfriend, Randy Wayne Charles, in Asheboro on Sept. 2.

The jury heard nearly two weeks of testimony before rendering its verdict.

Randolph County Assistant District Attorney Kingsley Dozier relied heavily on the testimony of Charles’s friends, neighbors, and coworkers to establish that Bean had threatened to kill him for at least a year prior to his death, and on the night of Sept. 30, 2008, she finally made good on those threats. Dozier argued that Bean killed Charles by firing three shots from her .38 caliber revolver and then staging the crime scene to make it look like an act of self-defense.

Bean’s defense team, led by attorney David Botchin, argued that Bean acted in selfdefense. Botchin built his defense primarily on the testimony of a number of expert witnesses and Bean herself. Karen M. Winningham, a forensic scientist and State Bureau of Investigation agent assigned to examine the physical evidence in the case, offered compelling testimony during the first week of the trial.

Winningham’s laboratory reports reveal she attempted to extract DNA profiles from a Remington 870 Express 20-gauge shotgun, five shotgun shells, a bloodstain from Randy Wayne Charles, and cheek swabs taken from Tamara Bean. Winningham’s reports state she could only obtain a partial DNA profile from one of the shotgun shells.

In an SBI laboratory report dated May 7, 2009, Winningham concluded the partial DNA profile did not match Tamara Bean but Randy Charles could not be ruled out as a contributor. A later report by Winningham reversed her earlier findings, stating that Bean could not be ruled out as a contributor to the partial DNA profile found on the shotgun shell. A copy of Winningham’s May 2009 report obtained by YES! Weekly reveals the document has the word “Canceled” stamped on it.

Due to Winningham’s conflicting reports, the trial began on Aug. 22 with a pre-trial hearing regarding Botchin’s motion against the state for alleged violations of Brady v. Maryland. Botchin claimed the state was withholding exculpatory evidence that could bolster Bean’s claim of self-defense. In the motion, Botchin asked for the first-degree murder charge to be reduced to a charge no greater than voluntary manslaughter to punish the state for not disclosing the evidence during the discovery process.

Superior Court Judge Vance Bradford Long agreed to a court order that compelled Winningham to prepare a new laboratory report that “clearly states that the comparison of the partial profile from [a shotgun shell recovered at the crime scene] with the DNA of Ms. Bean finds a ‘non-match’ and that her DNA is excluded” and that “the comparison of Mr. Charles’ DNA to that of the partial profile found on [the shotgun shell] does not rule Mr. Charles out since he does possess the allele found in the partial profile,” according to court records.

On Aug. 25, Agent Winningham produced a third report.

“The DNA profile obtained from T. Bean was excluded as a contributor,” the report states. “No conclusion can be rendered as to the contribution of the DNA profile from TR Charles.”

During her testimony on Aug. 26, Winningham confirmed that she could only obtain a partial DNA profile from one of the shotgun shells found at the crime scene and her original report excluded Bean as a contributor. Winningham attributed the cancellation of her first report to SBI Lab policy in effect at the time. However, Botchin presented Winningham with a copy of the SBI Lab Manual in force during the time of her DNA analysis that clearly states an exclusion can be determined “if only one [allele] probed produces exclusionary results.”

Winningham defended her amended report, stating that with insufficient DNA, you can call a DNA sample an incomplete profile. At the time of her report, there was significant debate in the SBI lab about the policy regarding exclusionary results, Winningham added.

Tamara Bean took the stand on Aug. 31.

She told the jury she met Charles at the age of 26 and they lived together for 24 years. Bean, 53, showed little or no emotion as she admitted she had been addicted to heroin, Dilaudid and Xanax when she met Charles. Bean said Charles was her drug connection in the early years of their relationship, and he struggled with his own addictions to alcohol and marijuana.

Bean acknowledged she had been previously charged with larceny and breaking and entering and assault with a deadly weapon. Bean described her relationship with Charles as volatile. She said their frequent arguments often escalated to physical confrontations. Bean also stated that she and Charles had both made death threats against one another in the past.

On the night of the crime, Bean said she and Charles had been arguing about her refusal to have sex with him. At one point, Charles took out his Remington 870 Express 20-gauge shotgun, Bean said.

“He said, ‘I’m going to teach you to stop having emotion swings and wigging out,’” Bean said.

“I said, ‘Well, if you are, go ahead and pull the trigger,’” Bean said. “I was tired of fighting.”

Bean said Charles was poking her in the stomach with the barrel of the shotgun before the deadly confrontation. Bean said the last thing she remembers is Charles reaching for shotgun shells to load his rifle and could only remember “small pieces” of what happened after that.

“The next thing I remember is seeing him on the living room floor,” Bean said.

Bean allegedly fired three shots from her .38 caliber handgun and killed Charles during the confrontation.

“Did you plant the shotgun and shotgun shells on the living room floor?” Botchin asked.

“No, sir,” Bean replied. On cross-examination, Dozier asked Bean why she wasn’t afraid when she saw Charles holding the shotgun.

“I was afraid,” Bean replied. “Then why would you ask to be shot?” Dozier asked.

Bean said she was tired of fighting with Charles and she was scared despite her defiant attitude. Dozier pointed out inconsistencies between Bean’s prior statements to investigators and healthcare providers and her court testimony, asking Bean if she knew why she didn’t tell anyone that Charles had poked her with the shotgun on the night of the killing. Bean said she thought she had shared that detail with investigators.

Dozier asked Bean if she recalled contacting her daughter to come pick her up on the night of the killing or speaking to a 911 operator. Bean said she could not remember much of what happened on the night in question, including shooting Charles three times.

On redirect, Botchin asked Bean if she could explain why she could not remember many of the details of the night of Sept. 30, 2008.

“I was in shock,” Bean replied. “I would never have expected something like that to happen.”

Cloutier, an expert on the use of force in criminal cases, testified about reaction time and fragmented memory. Cloutier testified that it takes the average person less than a second to perceive a threat, make a decision and take action. He further explained that fragmented memory is when someone can only remember bits and pieces of a deadly incident due to “tunnel vision,” an involuntary reaction to an incident involving lethal force.

Botchin presented Cloutier with the Remington pump shotgun found at the crime scene and asked him to demonstrate a possible scenario of Charles attempting to load the rifle before being shot three times.

Dozier called a number of witnesses who testified that Charles had stated on many occasions that Bean had threatened to kill him if he ever left her.

Earl Kennedy, a neighbor of Bean and Charles’s, testified that two months before Charles’s death, he witnessed him running out the back of his mobile home looking “wildeyed” and saying, “She’s after me with the gun.”

Archie Moore, a former neighbor, testified about an incident two weeks before Charles’ death where he encountered him running down the road late at night.

“He said [Bean] was gonna kill him,” Moore said.

Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft, a forensic pathologist and former associate chief medical examiner for the state of North Carolina, testified that she examined the body of Randy Charles in October 2008. On cross-examination, Botchin confirmed that Charles’s hands had paper bags taped on them, which typically means they were being tested for gunshot residue testing. Botchin asked if Gaffney-Kraft could determine what took place at the crime scene and if self-defense could be ruled out.

“I cannot rule out self-defense,” Gaffney- Kraft said.

The prosecution also called a number of first responders who were called to the crime scene in September 2008 as witnesses.

George Allen Morris, a former deputy with the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, testified he was the first person to arrive at the scene where he encountered Bean coming out of the mobile home.

“She made the statement, ‘I shot him, I shot him,’” Morris said.

Morris told the jury he had difficulty identifying Bean because she claimed her name was Debra McDaniels. Morris said they discovered Bean’s true identity after retrieving her purse and discovering a number of bottles of pre scription medications inside. Morris said he confronted Bean with his discovery and she became agitated and uncooperative.

During closing arguments, Dozier poked holes in Bean’s story. He said her inability to remember the shooting was a case of selective memory, not fragmented memory. Dozier explained that the SBI Laboratory couldn’t find any fingerprints or any of Bean’s DNA on either the shotgun or the .38 caliber pistol because Bean wiped them down before law enforcement arrived.

In his summation, Botchin said the physical evidence gathered at the crime scene bolstered Bean’s claim of self-defense and undercut the prosecution’s case. Botchin played the 911 call placed by Bean on the night of the shooting for the jury. A hysterical Bean could be heard on the tape shouting, “He’s dead! I shot him! He was loading the gun!” Botchin presented a blowup photograph of Bean on the night of the killing strapped to a gurney in the back of an ambulance. Bean appears to be staring off into space.

“Is that the face of a cold-blooded killer or someone in shock?” Botchin asked the jury. “You decide what that face really says.”

Dozier had the final word, stating that the defense’s theory of the case was a conspiracy theory that was simply not believable.