Cochran pleads guilty; sentenced to life in prison

Charles Andrew Cochran
Charles Andrew Cochran

Brittney Raby – Staff Writer

Nearly two years after Charles Andrew Cochran escaped from the Macon County Detention Center and embarked on a five-day crime spree that resulted in the death of 71-year-old Day Williamson, Cochran was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Appearing in Macon County Superior Court on Monday in front of Judge Bill Coward, Cochran pled guilty to first degree murder, first degree arson, assault by strangulation, felonious breaking and entering, felonious larceny, two counts of larceny of a firearm, and two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon.

“Charles Andrew Cochran pled guilty yesterday to all charges related to the death of Day Yarborough Williamson and the burning of her home,” District Attorney Ashley Welch said on Tuesday. “As a result of these nine felony convictions Mr. Cochran will spend the rest of his life in prison with no possibility of parole.”

Welch originally declared that the state would seek the death penalty in the case against Cochran after a plea deal was not met during Cochran’s last appearance in court. With Cochran’s sentencing of life in prison without the possibility of parole in exchange of a guilty plea, the family of Day Williamson was spared a lengthy trial process.

“This resolution brings finality and avoids the stress and uncertainty of a lengthy appeals process for Ms. Williamson’s family and permanently removes a dangerous individual from our community,” said Welch. “I commend the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, the Franklin Police Department and the N.C State Bureau of Investigation for their hard work and professionalism in these cases.”

The charges against Cochran began on July 30 shortly after 9 p.m. when he escaped custody at the Macon County Detention Center while taking out the trash. After escaping custody, Cochran was involved in a five-day crime spree that included the strangulation death of Day Williamson in her Burningtown home. Cochran also set fire to Williamson’s house before stealing her vehicle and fleeing the scene. Prior to escaping custody, Cochran was being held at the detention center on non-violent crimes stemming from charges incurred in Colorado.

Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland commended Welch’s office for prosecuting the case and seeking justice for William’s family.

“Mr. Cochran will pay dearly for the crimes he committed against an individual who only showed him love throughout his young life,” said Sheriff Holland. “Living behind bars with that for the rest of his days will surely haunt him. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Day Williamson’s family and friends as well as all those affected by this tragedy. I am also appreciative of the hard work of all my staff who worked tirelessly to bring Mr. Cochran to justice and build a solid case against him that left him with only two choices… life in prison or the death penalty. A trial would only have prolonged the hurt for the family and years of the appeals process.”

Adam Conley and Kathryn Jeter, two individuals involved in an early morning crime-spree at South Macon Elementary School last August also appeared before Superior Court Judge Bill Coward on Monday. Both the Conley and Jeter cases were continued until the Sept. 19, 2016 Superior Court date.