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The Brunswick County Sheriff's Office has arrested Richard Hugh Grissett, 51, of Shallotte, and charged him in the murder of 86-year-old Linnie Mae Ward of Longwood.
Grissett is in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Center under no bond.
On Monday, Nov. 26, Grissett was indicted for first-degree murder by a grand jury in Brunswick County Superior Court. He was also indicted for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, first-degree burglary and common-law robbery.
According to the BCSO, Grissett was arrested at 6:33 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, after being questioned at the sheriff’s office in Bolivia.
“The family is heartbroken. They are relieved the person responsible is in custody, but it will be a long grieving process. It’s a tragic loss. Ward lived 86 years and died as a result of something such as this,” Sheriff John Ingram said.
A search warrant was executed on Grissett’s residence at 7167 Farm Loop Path on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 20. A .22-caliber Ruger rifle belonging to Ward was recovered.
Deputies were dispatched to 1975 Gwynn Road NW in Longwood around 12:03 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13, for a death investigation.
“When the deputy arrived on the scene, he was met by a relative who was there to check on Linnie Mae Ward, an 86-year-old white female, who was found unresponsive,” said Del Routh, spokesperson for the BCSO.
Ingram said when officers entered Ward’s home, it was apparent there had been a struggle. Detectives believe Ward was killed on the evening of Monday, Nov. 12.
An autopsy was conducted, and it was determined Ward died from strangulation as well as blunt-force trauma to her face.
Ingram said the only known weapon was the attacker’s hands.
“The evidence at the scene combined with people in the community’s information is what led us to Grissett,” Ingram said.
He confirmed Ward may have known Grissett, but not to what extent. Ingram also said the motive is thought to be robbery.
“It appears he was looking for anything of value to sell and get money for or money,” Ingram said. “The only thing we know that was removed from the residence was the rifle.”
Ingram said it appeared Grissett walked into Ward’s home. There were no apparent signs of forced entry.
“The evidence supports that robbery was the motive,” Ingram said. “It was Ms. Ward’s desire not to be anyone’s victim that resulted in the struggle that ultimately led to her death.”
Ingram said the sheriff’s office is thankful for help they received.
“We are appreciative of the support of the community,” Ingram said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family during this difficult time. We also want to thank the members of the community and neighboring law enforcement agencies. I am extremely proud of our investigators. Everyone involved worked tirelessly from the beginning of this case. Investigators followed every lead and exhausted every bit of information coming in.”
Grissett was on probation at the time of the murder.
District Attorney Jon David said week his office would seek an indictment for first-degree murder charges against Grissett. The indictment came less than a week later. David also said the district attorney’s office would form a death-penalty review committee to look at the case.
Grissett’s criminal record dates back to 1992 and includes multiple charges for felony and misdemeanor larceny, breaking-and-entering, assault on a female, violation of a protective order and worthless checks as well as DWI, uttering forged papers, receiving stolen goods, larceny of a motor vehicle, reckless driving, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving while license revoked, resisting an officer, giving fictitious information to a law enforcement officer and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Grissett’s last period of incarceration ended on Nov. 16, 2005, he served two years, eight months and 25 days for possession of a firearm by a felon.
On July 29, 2010, he was convicted of felony larceny after attempted breaking-and-entering and attempted felony breaking-and-entering. He was sentenced to 36 months probation.
On Sept. 17, 2009, he was convicted of misdemeanor assault on a female and sentenced to probation. Grissett was also convicted of assault on a female in 2001 and 1999.
Rachel Johnson is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.