CCSO lieutenant on leave after SBI homicide inquiry

Lt. Daniel Garden.jpg

Craven County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Dan Garden is part of a probe into a homicide in Ernul late last year.

CCSO said Wednesday afternoon that they have place Garden on administrative leave pending a review of his actions. The special prosecutor in the case, Kimberly Overton, wrote in a memo that she had reviewed the details of the investigation and found "the evidence does not support criminal charges against Lieutenant Garden."

Search warrants obtained by NewsChannel 12 show the State Bureau of Investigation requested Garden's phone records for the last six months of 2017 in connection with the murder of Jimmy Whitford at his home in Ernul on Dec. 30, 2017. On Tuesday, investigators arrested Sharon Whitford, charging her with an open count of murder in her husband Jimmy's death. Whitford's official first appearance was set to occur Wednesday morning but was delayed until Friday.

Warrants reveal Garden told investigators he had replaced his phone the day after Whitford was killed, saying he had issues with the phone's SIM card. Whitford is set to appear before a judge in Craven County Wednesday morning.

District Attorney Scott Thomas said he was appointing a special prosecutor in the case due to his longstanding relationship with Jimmy Whitford. Additionally, much of his staff had worked with Sharon Whitford, who was employed by the Craven County Clerk of the Court's Office for more than 15 years.

The Craven County Sheriff's Office has recused itself from the investigation, handing it over to the SBI on Dec. 31. Sheriff Jerry Monette said he could not comment on the case as the SBI is handling the ongoing homicide inquiry.

Garden told investigators he and Sharon Whitford were having a sexual relationship. According to warrants, Sharon Whitford told investigators she had texted Garden the day of the murder. Her phone, however, showed no such texts.

The warrants were obtained with the hope of locating the missing messages between Garden and Sharon Whitford. Investigators say they were inconsistencies in Garden and Whitford's statements about the nature and timing of their relationship.

Text messages found between Sharon and Jimmy, according to warrants, show Sharon had asked Jimmy to take out a life insurance policy for himself two days before the shooting occurred.

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