SC teen and North Carolina man charged with murder of Star store employee

James William Ward Jr. and an unnamed South Carolina teenager are charged with the June 25 robbery and murder of a store clerk in the Montgomery County town of Star.

STAR — Two people have been charged with the June 25 murder of a convenience store clerk in Montgomery County.

WGHP reported on July 12 that James William Ward Jr., 57, and an unnamed 17-year-old have each been charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the death of Laura Whitman.

Whitman, 53, was working at Quik Check in Star when a suspect entered the store just after 10 p.m. wearing a balaclava and mask, brandished a gun and jumped over the counter before shooting him three times with a .22 caliber handgun, according to media reports.

WGHP reports $96 was stolen.

Ward is suspected to be the driver, the station reports.

According to WGHP, Ward was arrested by the NC State Bureau of Investigation on Sunday. The teenager, from Darlington, South Carolina, was arrested by police there on July 11. The station reports that the teenager was previously wanted on charges of attempted murder for an incident that took place on June 5. He would be transferred to Montgomery County to face charges.

Online court records show Ward, who was being held without bail, is due in court on August 21.

Ward was first convicted in 1981 of common law larceny in Guilford County, according to North Carolina Department of Public Safety records.

In 1989, he was convicted of two counts each of possession with intent to sell a controlled substance and misdemeanor break and enter, and one count each of possession of a controlled substance and selling of a controlled substance.

Ward was again convicted of robbery at common law in 1991. While serving time for the crime, he was convicted of breaking and entering and theft in 1993.

In 1998, Ward was convicted in Wake County of misdemeanor assault on a police officer and resisting a public officer.

Two years later, back in Guilford, he was convicted of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance and being a habitual criminal.

Records show he served a total of 12 years and nine months in prison between 1981 and 2009.

All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court.