Man pleads guilty to ax murders

Michael Allen Joyner receives two life sentences

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A man who prosecutors say killed his wife and father with an ax and then fled the state will spend the rest of his life in prison.

On Wednesday, 40-year-old Michael Allen Joyner pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the 2017 slayings of 36-year-old Michelle Joyner and 63-year-old Dennis Ray Joyner.

Their bodies were discovered on June 2, 2017, inside the 4104 Evansdale Road home where the three adults lived with Michael and Michelle Joyner’s 2-year-old, who was found alive but locked in a bedroom, according to officials.

The state agreed not to seek the death penalty in the case in exchange for Michael Joyner’s plea Wednesday. He was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole.


Authorities were dispatched to the Evansdale Road home to check on Dennis Joyner, who had not showed up for work at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, according to prosecutors.

That’s when they discovered the bodies of Dennis Joyner and Michelle Joyner. They also found the toddler, who officials said at the time suffered from dehydration after Michael Joyner locked her in a room without water.

Prosecutors say Michelle Joyner had discovered text messages that indicated her husband, Michael, had an online relationship with another woman in California.

After his wife confronted him about the relationship, Michael Joyner struck his wife with a hammer several times, Wilson County Assistant District Attorney Joel Stadiem told the court Wednesday. Stadiem said Michael Joyner also retrieved an ax and killed his father and then killed his wife with an ax as well. He then fled the home, drove to the Raleigh-Durham Airport and boarded a flight to Los Angeles.

Working with state and federal authorities, Wilson County Sheriff’s detectives eventually tracked him to a home in LA’s San Pedro community. He was arrested the night of June 3, 2017, — a day after the murders — at a San Pedro home. He was extradited to North Carolina.


Several family members were seated behind the prosecutor’s table Wednesday. They declined to address the court. Michael Joyner, dressed in a white button shirt and khaki pants, addressed the family.

“... I took the lives of two people ... for reasons I can’t explain,” he said, looking directly at family members seated on the other side of the courtroom.

He said he wished he knew why he did it but he doesn’t. He told the court every day since the killings, he’s begged the Lord to ease the families’ suffering and pain and to increase his.

He said his “sincerest hope” is that they will find comfort and will one day forgive him.

“I am truly, truly, sorry,” he said.

Prior to the formal court proceedings, Michael Joyner’s attorney, Randy Hughes, told the court his client had been psychologically evaluated. The report showed he was mentally competent and understood fully his plea arrangement.

Hughes said when Michael Joyner was brought back to Wilson County after fleeing the state, he told detectives every detail that happened.

Hughes also told the court his client served in the Marine Corps for several years in the Middle East. He also served in the Marine Corps Reserve and held a job for more than a decade. Hughes pointed out his client does suffer from major depressive disorder.