HOFFMAN — A shooting victim has died nearly 48 hours after deputies say her boyfriend fired the fatal gun blast during a domestic dispute in the home they shared.
Rebecca Priest McPherson, 35, was pronounced dead Monday night at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, according to Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies upgraded an attempted murder charge filed against 54-year-old Karl Mathis Purcell to first-degree murder Tuesday morning. Purcell was denied bond during his first court appearance and remains in the Richmond County Jail.
Purcell is accused of shooting McPherson in the head with a handgun shortly after midnight Sunday, according to a sheriff’s office report and warrants for his arrest. The couple lived together at a 143 Knight St. mobile home.
“I heard gunshots, but I thought that it was the military,” said neighbor F.W. Williams, noting residents often hear artillery from U.S. Army training exercises at nearby Camp Mackall. “We’re so used to hearing the military fire, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.”
Williams said Knight Street residents were stunned to learn of the deadly shooting.
“It’s sad, it’s really sad,” she said. “…Bless her heart, she was so young.”
Williams didn’t know Purcell, but said she saw him working to channel water off the flooded dirt road the day before the shooting. She thought he owned or helped manage some of the mobile homes. Richmond County tax records do not list him as owner of the property.
“I just heard he wasn’t a nice man, anyway,” she said.
Since moving to Knight Street in June, Williams said she’s never felt unsafe or experienced any trouble. A handful of mobile homes dot the dirt road tucked away off U.S. 1 north of Hoffman, and a wide, sandy lot separates her from her nearest neighbor.
“There’s not too many people over here,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “I found out about (the shooting) yesterday. It’s a quiet neighborhood.”
While Williams never saw Purcell carrying a gun, she said neighbors knew him to be armed. As a convicted felon, Purcell was prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.
Arrest warrants state Purcell was caught with a Norinco 9mm semi-automatic handgun, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun and a Norinco SKS 7.62 rifle. He faces three felony counts of possession of a firearm by a felon in addition to the charge of first-degree murder.
N.C. Division of Adult Correction records show Purcell was convicted of felony assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury in Richmond County and felony breaking and entering in Moore County, both in the summer of 2005. Charging documents list a home on Bambi Lane in Carthage as Purcell’s previous address.
Deputies said McPherson’s killing is classified as a domestic violence homicide. Sixty-four North Carolina residents lost their lives to alleged partner and family violence in 2014, according to the N.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Prior to McPherson’s death, the agency reported 42 domestic homicides to date this year.
“If anyone knows people who are in relationships and they think there is domestic violence, please reach out to friends, law enforcement, anyone who can help so that hopefully it won’t get to this point,” Gulledge said.
All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Reach Editor Corey Friedman at 910-817-2670 and follow him on Twitter @corey_friedman.