Accused killer of former deputy in court as friends mourn his death

Will Welch Jr. (Photo courtesy of Onslow County Sheriff's Office)

JACKSONVILLE, Onslow County - The 18-year-old charged in the killing of former Onslow County Sheriff's Office deputy Will Clifton appeared in Onslow County Superior Court on Monday on a charge of felony murder.

Judge Henry Stevens IV denied bond for Will Welch Jr., who is also facing separate lesser charges of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting a public officer and injury to real property. His next court date is Aug. 7.

Stevens asked Welch is he would need a court-appointed attorney or if he would be providing his own, to which Welch replied he would first need to speak with his mother but that "she's gonna help me out."

Clifton was found dead in Woodlands Park on July 7 at about 6:30 a.m.

The Jacksonville Daily News reported that according to Clifton's death certificate, he had suffered multiple gunshot wounds in addition to blunt force trauma.

Capt. Ashley Weaver of the Jacksonville Police Department, which is heading the investigation, said late last week that more arrests are expected in this case.

Two months before he was killed, the State Bureau of Investigation - at the request of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office - began investigating allegations against Clifton that he had taken indecent liberties with a minor between mid-2015 and the time he resigned from the OCSO in February 2016.

Clifton had spent time during his 9-year tenure at OCSO as both a detective and a school resource officer.

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