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Granville County appoints new sheriff while Wilkins faces criminal charges

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Charles R. Noblin Jr. was appointed the new sheriff of Granville County.
Charles R. Noblin Jr. was appointed the new sheriff of Granville County.

OXFORD — The Granville County Board of Commissioners appointed a sheriff's office sergeant to serve as sheriff while former sheriff Brindell Wilkins faces criminal charges related to an alleged plot to murder a former deputy.

Charles R. Noblin Jr., a sergeant overseeing the civil division, is an 18-year veteran of the sheriff's office, according to a press release. He will take the oath of office Wednesday afternoon.

Noblin will run the sheriff's office until the end of Wilkins' unexpired term in December 2022, or until Wilkins returns to his post if the criminal case against him ends without a conviction.

Noblin is replacing Chief Deputy Sherwood Boyd, who served as interim sheriff since September when Wilkins agreed to a court order to temporarily step down. Boyd is eligible to retire in 2021 and "believes that the men and women of the Granville County Sheriff's Office deserve an assurance of continuity" through 2022, the release said.

Wilkins was indicted by a grand jury in September on two counts of felony obstruction of justice following a 10-month investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation.

According to the indictments, investigators reviewed a tape of a 2014 phone conversation Wilkins had with another person he knows. During the call, Wilkins is said to have urged the other person to kill former deputy Joshua Freeman.

The sheriff believed Freeman possessed and planned to release recordings of Wilkins "using racially offensive language," the indictments claim. The sheriff fired Freeman 10 days earlier.

"The only way you gonna stop him is kill him," Wilkins was allegedly recorded as saying in the conversation with the would-be killer, who has not been named by authorities.

Documents show that Wilkins, 59, is accused of providing tips to the person on how to execute the killing and to do so "in a manner as to avoid identification." According to documents, Wilkins is quoted as saying "you ain't got the weapon, you ain't got nothing to go on" and "the only way we find out these murder things is people talk. You can't tell nobody nothin.'"

The sheriff also discussed a specific time and location in Granville County to carry out the killing, the indictments allege.

Wilkins, a Democrat in office since 2009, was served his indictment Sept. 16 by SBI and FBI agents. He appeared before a magistrate and was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond.

Prosecutors have said there is an ongoing second investigation into the sheriff's office accounting practices and drug interdiction efforts.

Here is the full statement released by the Granville County Board of Commissioners and the Granville County Sheriff's Office:

The Granville County Board of Commissioners appointed Charles R. Noblin, Jr. sheriff this evening to fulfill the unexpired term of Brindell B. Wilkins, Jr. Mr. Noblin will take the oath of office at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, January 8, 2020. Mr. Noblin is an eighteen-year veteran of the Granville County Sheriff's Office. He is currently the sergeant in charge of the Civil Division.

The Granville County Board of Commissioners want to thank Chief Deputy Sherwood Boyd for his leadership in fulfilling the duties of the office of the sheriff since Mr. Wilkins was suspended on September 23, 2019. The decision to name Mr. Noblin was taken in consultation with Mr. Boyd. Mr. Boyd is eligible to retire in early 2021. While he has not made a decision to retire at this time, he believes that the men and women of the Granville County Sheriff's Office deserve an assurance of continuity for the balance of Mr. Wilkins' unexpired term which ends in December 2022. Mr. Noblin has advised me that he intends to swear Mr. Boyd in as his chief deputy.

The order suspending Mr. Wilkins remains in effect at least until the resolution of the two felony charges of obstruction of justice with which he has been indicted. As Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has publicly announced, there is a continued, ongoing state and federal investigation into the activities of the Granville County Sheriff's Office during Mr. Wilkins tenure. The Commissioners' action recognizes that it could be months or years before the issues involving Mr. Wilkins are resolved.

The ongoing investigations are focused on individuals and not the Granville County Sheriff's Office as a whole. The Commissioners appreciate the dedicated and honorable service of the vast majority of the employees of the Sheriff's Office and wish to publicly thank them for the outstanding job they have done under difficult circumstances. We look forward to and expect to continue and enhance cooperation between the Granville County Sheriff's Office and its state and federal prosecutorial and law enforcement partners. The various law enforcement agencies can only operate effectively where there is open communication and respect between those offices that focuses on the safety, security, and rights of the people served.

We wish to remind the public that Brindell B. Wilkins, Jr. remains innocent until proven guilty. No action taken by the Commissioners should be read to be a judgment as to his guilt or innocence. Rather, the actions taken are to insure the continued, effective operation of the Granville County Sheriff's Office until the ongoing investigations are finished and the legal proceedings against him are concluded.

Mr. Noblin's appointment as sheriff gives him full authority over the Granville County Sheriff's Office. The Commissioners give Mr. Noblin their full support to make any changes reasonably necessary for the effective organization of the Granville County Sheriff's Office including taking steps to reconstitute a drug investigations unit. The Commissioners pledge the support needed to insure the Granville County Sheriff's Office can provide professional law enforcement, detention, court security, school security, and civil process services in a fair and impartial manner that protects and preserves the Constitutional Rights of the people it serves.

Due to personnel issues and the ongoing state and federal investigations, no further statements will be issued.