Episode 9: “Who is Larry Demery?”
Cliff Bumgardner: If you’re just starting this podcast, go back and listen from Episode 1, it’ll make a lot more sense.
Amanda Lamb: When police first arrested Daniel Green and Larry Demery for the murder of James Jordan, Larry’s family lived off a long, bumpy dirt road.
Lori Fousee: I remember it was a white, four door Chevrolet Wagon that I was driving. And um, so my gear was in the back, all the way in the back.
Amanda: Lori Fousee was a photographer for WRAL-TV back in 1993. She was working with reporter Debra Morgan to cover the Jordan case.
Debra Morgan: So our task that day, I went with our photographer, Lori Foushee, and, uh, went up to the home of Larry Demery’s family and, like we would any other case, you always want to give everybody the opportunity to defend the person who is accused of a crime.
Amanda: On the dirt road to the Demerys’ house, they met another news crew, headed the opposite way. They stopped and the crew told them, “look, don’t go down to the house. These people are dangerous.”
Lori Fousee: And of course we’re like, “okay, sure, no problem.”
Amanda: They didn’t listen. They kept driving.
Lori Fousee: And then we saw the house.
Amanda: As soon as they got out of the car, Larry Demery’s father, Larry Demery Sr., stepped on to the porch. He started yelling for them to leave. And he had a shotgun.
Debra Morgan: I said, try to get the camera out of the car. And I was trying to basically negotiate with this man. And I said, please, if you don’t mind, we would like to ask your opinion. You know, tell us about Larry. Tell us about what kind of a child he is. And he just started screaming. And then, um, pretty quickly after that started firing.
Amanda: From WRAL Studios, this is Follow the Truth: The story of the James Jordan Murder, and the man who says he didn’t do it. I’m Amanda Lamb.
Amanda: Larry Demery’s father fired into the air over Debra and Lori heads effectively scaring them off. So, a day that was supposed to be about reaching out to Larry’s family, getting his side of the case, turned into a story about a family who didn’t want to talk — and made that very clear.
Virginia Demery: [Yelling] I said to leave and leave now. Get.
[Sound of a gunshot and car revving]
Virginia Demery: Get out of here.
Debra Morgan: Larry Demery’s father fired his gun when we approached his home and didn’t want to comment about the arrest of his son.
Debra Morgan: His son was being vilified in the news, um, by reports all over the country, probably all over the world. And he was, um, obviously under a lot of stress. I was not happy with the way he expressed that. But there are always two sides to a story, maybe more than two sides. But, there’s always another side, and so I just wanted to make sure that he was heard, but he didn’t want to share.
Amanda: And Larry’s story, well it’s a side we’ve never really heard. Over the years, a lot has been said about Daniel Green: articles, documentaries, this podcast.
But what about Larry? He’s the entire other half of this case, the other person charged with murder of James Jordan.
Yet, so often he’s just presented as “the other guy.”
When he’s talked about, it’s usually in the context of Daniel’s life or perspective. We know almost nothing about Larry. Who he is, how he thinks about the murder and everything that’s happened since.
Larry has said so little over the years about the case. Other than his interrogation and the trial, we have almost no tape of him.
While going through the archives, we found news clips from the trial of reporters shouting questions at Larry each day as he went into the courthouse to testify.
News Reporter: Mr. Demery, you worried about being cross-examined?
News Reporter: Hey Larry, some of the jurors think you were the triggerman. Do you have any reaction to that?
Amanda: Larry never responds. He hardly even looks at the reporters asking the questions. He just keeps on going, head down.
This is how Larry and his family have approached this case. They’ve talked to almost nobody. And they wouldn’t talk to us. Larry’s father has since passed away. But, his mother and other family members didn’t agree to an interview. We wrote to Larry himself in prison, but never heard back.
So we’ve tried to put together a picture of Larry from the few scattered pieces we do have.
We’ve talked about how Larry and Daniel met in elementary school.
Daniel Green: He was really my first real, like my first real friend that I made. Uh, we, we met on the, in the school, um, playground.
Amanda: They grew up together, more like brothers than friends. Then, when Daniel was sixteen, he went to prison on an assault charge that was later overturned due to ineffective counsel.
By 18, when Daniel got out, Larry had grown up. He had a job and a pregnant fiancé.
And Daniel says, Larry told him he was now involved in the drug trade.
Amanda Lamb: What kinds of things did he do? I mean, he would like carry drugs somewhere like hidden?
Daniel Green: Yeah pretty much. It was just you to go and you would go to a spot, pick up drugs and take them to wherever somebody has them going to. Whether it’s going to uh, whether the drugs are stashed, like within the actual interior of the body of the car itself.
Amanda: Daniel says Larry was basically a drug mule. He would drive cars stashed with cocaine up and down the East Coast.
But he says the job, the fiance, and the drug connections weren’t all Larry had accumulated while Daniel was away. He’d also earned a long rap sheet, for charges ranging from forgery to assault.
Johnson Britt: He had an armed robbery charge. He had a felony assault charge that were in the same case that occurred in Pembroke, North Carolina.
Amanda: Prosecutor Johnson Britt:
Johnson Britt: A woman who worked as a clerk at the store took the trash out. He knew the routine. He was standing behind the, um, dumpster. And when she came out to put the trash in he dropped the cinder block on her head. Hurt her severely. Um, he was arrested and charged with that. Um, got out on bond. Um, he had some break-ins. He had a drug charge, possession of cocaine. And so, but he was out on bond and all these things.
Amanda: Before the James Jordan murder, Larry had at least 13 pending charges in other cases. At trial, Larry testified that by July of ’93 he’d quit his job, making most of his money by committing robberies.
Johnson Britt: Were you still working at Crestline at that time?
Larry Demery: No, by then I had already quit and pretty much made a career out of committing crimes.
Amanda: “Made a career out of committing crimes.” Larry had a reputation around Lumberton, the cops knew him. They even talked about it in his interrogation.
Larry Demery: I’m — it’s not like I ain’t been through this before.
Investigator: You see, that’s what we know. We know you’ve been through it before and know how the game’s played. We know you know how the game’s played.
Investigator: But now, you know all I have to do now, is get a photograph of you. Now, where am I gonna get a photograph at, do you know?
Larry Demery: They probably got one down there.
Investigator: I’ll bet you they do.
Larry Demery: Haha
Amanda: In that interrogation, he starts by spinning a few lies he and Daniel had come up with.
Investigator: You’re’ a hard nut, aren’t you?
Larry Demery: No.
Investigator: You’re a hard nut, aren’t you?
Amanda: Eventually, after several conversations with the authorities, Larry tells on Daniel, saying he saw Daniel pull the trigger.
Hugh Rogers: I was surprised to see that, um, you know, Larry was allegedly involved in this.
Amanda: Hugh Rogers represented Larry Demery in the James Jordan case.
Hugh Rogers: Saw the news broadcast and it showed Daniel and Larry’s picture up on the screen. I said, Lord, what’s Larry into now?
Amanda: It wasn’t Rogers’ first time representing Larry. He’d worked with him on a previous charge that got dismissed, so when the murder happened, the judge appointed him to the case.
And Rogers, well, he has a very different view of Larry Demery than you might expect given his rap sheet.
Hugh Rogers: Always a nice, polite, gentle individual. Not, you know, some horrendous individual, that I do have occasion to represent every now and then that are what people might portray as a true heinous criminal. Larry was quite the opposite of that. And it turns out he was involved in some of these acts of violence and bothering other folks as well. He and Daniel both. But, um, that was a bit surprising, but is what it is.
Amanda: “Polite” and “gentle” aren’t words you’d usually associate with someone charged with hitting a woman over the head with a cinderblock. But it was this dichotomy that surprised a lot of people.
Larry had gotten into more trouble than Daniel at this point. But Larry was also incredibly quiet, reserved.
Daniel Green: Like, me and Larry opposites, you know, like, I, I’m, you know, I talk to him, talk to people. I talk to anybody. Um, he’s real quiet. Um, and some people may think that’s like weird, but he’s just, he’s just like his dad.
Amanda: And the difference in how Larry and Daniel carried themselves, it was seized on by the media. Remember that walkdown when they were first arrested? When the Sheriff essentially walked them around the courthouse, parading them for the cameras. Their personalities played into the narrative that was being spun, that Daniel was the aggressor, out front, head held high.
Johnson Britt: Demery is an introvert. The people who saw them together always described him as, he’s the quiet one. Daniel Green’s the talker. And so, but that was the way he was always described. He kinda stood in the background, followed, followed Daniel.
Amanda: Larry had these unresolved cases– armed robbery, felony assault. Now, he’s looking at a first degree murder charge. And he had admitted he was involved in Jordan’s murder. His lawyer, Hugh Rogers, says Larry was in a tight spot.
Hugh Rogers: Our initial strategy, of course, was to try to get Larry’s statement suppressed. That it was coerced by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s department, SBI, uh, maybe some Robeson County involvement as well. Some of the tactics, the officers used, um, we fell, like went beyond constitutional bounds.
News Reporter: Larry Demery’s attorneys spent another day trying to convince the court that investigators illegally pressured him into making his now well-publicized and potentially damaging statement. For example, a very graphic threat of the death penalty by lethal injection.
Hugh Rogers: Had anybody in the prior occasions ever made any reference to sticking a needle up his ass from which he would not wake up in the context of capital punishment?
News Reporter: Larry Demery left the courthouse after the judge said he’d need a few weeks to decide if his statements can be used in a trial.
Amanda: Ultimately, the judge denied their motion, so prosecutors would be allowed to use Larry’s interrogation in court.
Hugh Rogers: Our strategy obviously had, uh, had changed.
Amanda: And it’s here Prosecutor Johnson Britt says he saw an opportunity.
Johnson Britt: Um, what I had was a statement from Daniel Green with a whole bunch of lies in it, and I had a statement from Larry Demery that was as close to a confession to felony murder than any case I’ve ever had. And his lawyers knew that. And so it was time to cut their losses and move forward and try to do what they could do to save their clients’ life. And so I approached them about the possibility of a plea.
Amanda: Britt’s offer went like this: Larry would plead guilty to all the charges against him, including the James Jordan murder. In return, the state would put all Larry’s previous assault and robbery charges together into one judgement — which carried a maximum sentence of forty years in prison.
As for the Jordan murder, Larry would agree to cooperate with the state’s case against Daniel Green and testify at trial. It was the best shot Larry had at avoiding the death penalty, but it still wasn’t a guarantee.
Johnson Britt: In the Jordan Case, there was no agreement as to a sentence. Under the law in North Carolina at the time, I didn’t have the discretion to take the death penalty off the table. If I had a first degree murder case and the person was convicted, then it was my duty as a prosecutor to seek the death penalty.
Amanda: The best Britt could do was promise he would tell the jury at sentencing that Larry had confessed to what he’d done and had testified against his co-defendant, Daniel.
From there, it was up to the jury to decide whether Larry would live or die.
More, after the break.
Amanda: In April of 1995, Larry Demery walks into a courtroom, wearing round wire framed glasses, a white collared shirt and red tie. A barely visible moustache gives him the look of a boy becoming a man right in front of the cameras.
Johnson Britt: Your honor, the purpose of this hearing is that the defendant Larry Martin Demery is changing his plea from one of not guilty to guilty pursuant to a negotiated plea. [fades under]
Amanda: Larry sits stoically at the defendant’s table. Hugh Rogers is by his side. There are a few people scattered throughout the gallery. This is months before Daniel’s trial that would become a media frenzy, but many of the players are the same. Prosecutor Johnson Britt is at his own table, shuffling through his papers. Judge Gregory Weeks sits at the bench, shirt and tie peeking out from beneath his flowing black robe.
Judge Gregory Weeks: If you’ll stand up please sir, place your left hand on the bible, raise your right and face the clerk.
Amanda: Judge Weeks reads off a list of Larry’s charges, asking him to confirm his guilt after each one.
Judge Gregory Weeks: …as to those charges, the possible maximum punishment would be 60 years?
Larry Demery: Yes.
Judge Gregory Weeks: You also understand that you’re pleading guilty to three counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, each of which is a class D felony, each of which is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of forty years. [fades under]
Amanda: Charge by charge Larry affirms, yes, he’s guilty. And yes, he’ll testify against Daniel.
Judge Gregory Weeks: And do you enter this plea of your own free will fully understanding what you’re doing here today?
Larry Demery: Yes
Judge Gregory Weeks: Mr. Demery do you have any questions about anything I’ve said to you or anything in the context of this plea hearing [fades out]
Amanda Lamb: Did you believe Larry’s story, his version of the story, the one he testified to?
Hugh Rogers: You know, I actually did and do. Um, it was not ludicrou, um, as perhaps maybe some of Daniel’s earlier stories seem to be.
Amanda Lamb: And you never, you never felt like he was being forced or pushed or coerced, his story?
Hugh Rogers: No. No, no, no. Absolutely not.
Amanda: Here’s Rogers from 1996, talking about Larry’s testimony in Daniel’s trial:
Hugh Rogers: And he knows he’s going to undergo a rigorous cross-examination but we feel like he’s ready for that. He’s going to adhere to telling the truth and if he does that he’s got nothing to be concerned about.
Johnson Britt: One of the things that I believe that gets lost in the history of this case is how long Larry Demery was on the witness stand. People forget that he was on the stand for the better part of a week. And they continued to try to rip into him.
Amanda: For four days, Larry took the stand at Daniel’s trial. He told his story, testifying against his former best friend.
Larry Demery: …noticed a watch that he had on and a ring he was wearing.
Johnson Britt: What made you notice the watch he was wearing?
Larry Demery: It was standing our real flashy [inaudible]
Johnson Britt: What, if anything, caught your attention about the ring he was wearing?
Larry Demery: Well, nothing really at the time other than the size of it.
Johnson Britt: What about the size caught your attention?
Larry Demery: Well it had a big stone in it. [fades out]
Amanda Lamb: Did he ever show any remorse?
Hugh Rogers: Yeah, I think so. Now I can’t say publicly or whatnot, but, uh, I would say on the stand, there was times that you could tell that, uh, he wasn’t comfortable talking about his role in the situation.
Amanda Lamb: What about though, talking to you. Just the two of you.
Hugh Rogers: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Amanda Lamb: You sensed remorse?
Hugh Rogers: And that, and that goes back to what you asked me at the beginning as far as my impressions of him.
Amanda Lamb: Did you get to know his family at all?
Hugh Rogers: Oh, yes, I did, yes.
Amanda Lamb: You know, how were they dealing with this? It sounds like, you know, this was a very close knit family. This had to be very sad for them.
Hugh Rogers: It was, um, certainly his mom’s a very sweet lady and, uh, got to know his dad as well. And, um, I mean, they just, they, had to support him and they gladly did that and I think their support was, uh, beneficial to him getting through all this.
Amanda: GQ Magazine writer, Scott Raab is, to this day, one of a very small number of journalists that Larry’s family has ever spoken with.
For some reason, the family that opened fire when other journalists showed up at their house, opened the door to Scott.
Scott Raab: It’s basically a trailer and there’s, there’s pine scented water on the radiator. You know to scent the room. And these are hardscrabble people whose son is involved in, you know, this high-profile murder.
Amanda: He says Larry Demery Sr. stood in the background smoking a cigarette. His wife, Virginia, took the lead.
Scott Raab: I don’t think there was anything but a reflexive belief that Larry– I mean the idea that either of them pulled kid could pull trigger is really hard for me to accept, but these are Larry’s parents.
Amanda: She tells Scott that her son quote “had done some things he shouldn’t have, But there’s no way he’d do something like that. No one on earth will ever convince me those two boys killed that man. Not in a million years, no matter how this comes out.”
News Reporter: Larry Demery has spent three years waiting for decision day, and today could be the day he finds out if he lives or dies. Demery’s defense team says the only justice is life in prison. They also say he suffered from the effects of an abusive father — and the effects of a manipulative friend.
Hugh Rogers: We don’t anticipate that Larry will get the death penalty, he certainly–based on the evidence we argued up there today–played a very, very minor role in this entire situation. That evidence is uncontradicted, unless Daniel Green takes the stand, and I would enjoy cross examining him, if that’s the case.
News Reporter: Demery’s fiance and sister anxiously await the outcome of the case that had ruled their lives since 1993.
Amanda: Prosecutor Johnson Britt argued at Larry’s sentencing that he was just as culpable as Daniel in Jordan’s death, but he did put in a word about Larry’s cooperation with the state. The final defense witness at the hearing was a psychiatrist who, according to news reports at the time, testified that Larry was easily led and under the influence of Daniel when Jordan was killed.
The jury decided not to send Larry to death row.
Judge Gregory Weeks: You’re sentenced to the term of natural life in the North Carolina Department of Corrections.
Amanda: Larry’s was sentenced to life in prison.
He does have the opportunity to apply for parole….. He’s been eligible for release since 2013 and his case is reviewed every three years.
News Reporter: He was the star state witness in the case against Daniel Green.
Hugh Rogers: It’s getting closer to his time for parole, closer to times when he may be able to get jobs outside of the prison camp as opposed to working within the camp.
Amanda: In both 2013 and 2016, the state denied Larry’s parole.
When we started reporting on this story, all of this stuff from the trial and Larry’s plea — it was pretty much the sum total of what we knew about him. Like I said, he hasn’t talked a lot, publicly.
But then, the deeper we went, we started hearing about these stories, times where people said Larry did talk to them. And what he had to say was surprising.
For example, Daniel’s mother, Elizabeth Green, says she heard from Larry. She got a card from him in prison about a decade ago.
Amanda Lamb: So you get this– You’ve never talked to Larry since then, and you get a card. And what does it say?
Elizabeth Green: How sorry was, but he didn’t have any choice. That blood was thicker than water.
Amanda Lamb: What do you think he meant by blood is thicker than water?
Elizabeth Green: Uh, there were rumblings that, you know, if things did not go the way that they wanted them to go, that his family was threatened.
Amanda: She says she lost the card in one of her moves…
Amanda Lamb: What do you think he was trying to tell you?
Elizabeth Green: I don’t know, but he said, but I didn’t have any choice. I didn’t have any choice in the matter.
Amanda: Then in 2015 a woman named Connee Brayboy came forward.
Brayboy was the Editor in Chief of the Carolina Indian Voice in the early ‘90s. The paper was based in Pembroke, North Carolina. And she says, much to our surprise, Larry did agree to one interview with her shortly after his arrest. But no one learned about this until Brayboy spoke up.
In that interview she says Larry told her something that could have changed the entire case if it had gone public. But she never reported what he said.
She says Larry told her that he killed James Jordan — not Daniel Green.
If this is true, not only does it back up what Daniel has been saying for years. It would mean Larry’s testimony was a lie. And that throws so much from the trial into question…
We reached out to Brayboy, but she didn’t speak to us for the podcast.
When she came forward in 2015, she did an interview with Daniel’s attorneys at the time. We have a sworn affidavit from that interview.
Here’s Daniel’s current attorney, Chris Mumma.
Chris Mumma: In her affidavit she says that Demery told her that, uh, he killed Jordan.
Amanda: Brayboy says quote, “During my conversation with Larry Demery, Mr. Demery stated to me that he was the person who had shot and killed Mr. James Jordan. Larry Demery told me that he killed Mr. Jordan because he had witnessed a drug transaction”
Brayboy goes on to say that the murder took place outside the car, not inside the Lexus, as Larry testified to at trial.
So, why did this never come out back in 1993? No one really knows for sure. A fellow Lumbee, Brayboy was apparently friends with Virginia Demery and worried that revealing what Larry had told her would impact the Demery family as well as the Lumbee community.
Chris Mumma: Um, I think there’s a very, very strong, um, rightfully so, uh, Indian community. And, um, I think she was, uh, felt obligated to honor that. And, and I, you know, I think there’s probably been a lot of people threatened in this case. Um, and that, that is a theory. Uh, but I think she was probably threatened not to come forward.
Amanda: But Brayboy’s story isn’t enough on its own to set Daniel free. It’s secondhand, it’s hearsay… a judge would need to hear it from Larry’s mouth directly in order for it to make a legal difference.
Since Chris Mumma started working on Daniel’s case in 2016, she’s been trying to make that happen. She believes Larry’s testimony convicted Daniel — and now, his word could set Daniel free.
She tried every angle to get Larry to agree to a meeting, sent him several letters trying to convince him it’s the right thing to do, that it’s time to come clean, to unburden himself, she even appealed to his spirituality asking about his belief in God.
Chris Mumma: He said, you know, don’t, don’t play those games with me. Don’t try and use guilt trips on me because guilt trips won’t work with me. Come here and be honest and I’ll meet with you.
Amanda: Mumma went.
On News Years Eve, 2018, she drove to the prison where Larry was held in Scotland County, North Carolina. She hoped Larry would give her something, anything to help Daniel’s case.
Chris Mumma: I, um, decided it would be a good step to take for the, for the end of the year, 2018, that we had worked so hard on Daniel’s case, and maybe we’d have something to start the new year with.
Amanda: Turns out, she got a lot more than she expected.
Chris Mumma: He said he did not see Daniel Green shoot James Jordan.
Amanda: That’s on the next episode of Follow The Truth.
Amanda: Follow the Truth is written by me, Amanda Lamb, and Cliff Bumgardner.
Cliff also produces the show.
Shelly Leslie is our executive producer.
The show is edited and mixed by Wilson Sayre.
Our production manager is Anita Normanly.
Original music is by George Hage and Lee Rosevere.
Audio repair help by Isaac Rodrigues.
Additional reporting by Clay Johnson, Jay Jennings and the many other WRAL-TV journalists whose coverage you hear throughout the story. The show is represented by Melinda Morris Zanoni and Legacy Talent Entertainment with branding and digital marketing by Capitol B Creative. Special thanks to Dave Beasing.
Thanks for listening.