This week Evil Lives Here spotlights the case of killer Norman Starnes, whose murder of Bill Welborn and Jared Champlain was only uncovered when his girlfriend, Gwen Ott, contacted police.
January 8, 1996, in Pelion, South Carolina, and Bill Welborn and Jared Champlain went to visit their friend, Norman Starnes, at his restaurant. The three of them then left to hit a local bar, but Welborn and Champlain never make it home.
Their girlfriends reported them missing to the police but the case remains cold for months. Then in May of the same year Starnes’s girlfriend, Gwen Ott, called the police and told them that he’d killed the two missing men.
She told detectives that in the restaurant on the day of the killings, Starnes had come back several times to get cash out of the register. On the third time he had marks on his head and he told her that Welborn had hit him with his pistol.
Starnes then grabbed his gun and some ammunition and left, telling Gwen he was going to kill them. Later she described heading to Starnes’s house, where she saw the bodies of both men. Starnes then cleaned up the scene, before driving the bodies to some woods, where they were dumped. On the way back he threw his own gun into the river.
Following Gwen’s information the police arrested Starnes and were able to find the bodies. It later turned out that Starnes had actually dug them back up so he could scatter lime on them, to try and hide the smell.
At his trial Starnes elected to represent himself and claimed that during a drug deal the men had pulled a gun on Jody, the dealer he’d brought to the house. Explaining that he then shot the two of them in self-defense.
Jody was called as a witness but under cross-examination he changed his story and eventually told the court that Starnes walked out of the bedroom and just shot both men dead.
The jury found Starnes guilty of both murders and he was given the death penalty.
During the subsequent appeals, Starnes had some luck in 2000 and the court overturned his sentence, but in 2007 he was found guilty again and the death penalty reinstated. Further appeals were also rejected, with Starnes being unusual in that he represented himself at court.
Evil Lives Here – Drawn to Darkness airs at 9:00 PM on Investigation Discovery.
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