From archives: Hardee's shooting suspect's lawyer asks off case

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemCrimeTrials and ArbitrationHomicideDining and DrinkingRestaurants

The attorney for one of two men accused in the 2007 slaying of Hardee's employee Dianne E. Freeman-Green asked off the case Wednesday.

Alvin B. "Buddy" Fox Jr., the lawyer for Henry L. Stapleton, 23, made a motion to withdraw from the case just before a trial was set to begin in Newport News Circuit Court.

"We had an insurmountable difference of opinion as to how the case should be handled," Fox said.He declined to reveal more, saying doing so could hurt his client.

The motion to delay the trial was granted by Judge Aundria D. Foster, and a new trial date will be picked Oct. 13. Stapleton has until then to hire a new attorney.

Stapleton turned himself in to police in April. Fox said the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office does not believe Stapleton was the man who shot Freeman-Green, but he was charged with murder as a conspirator.

"He's not the shooter, and he is not believed to have been armed when he went in there, either," Fox said.

Two men entered the Hardee's, located on Denbigh Boulevard in Denbigh, just before 5:30 a.m. Sept. 8, 2007, robbing the restaurant at gunpoint. As the men left with an undisclosed amount of cash, one of them shot Freeman-Green and Dwayne Davis, 21, who recovered from his injuries.

Freeman-Green, 47, had worked at the Hardee's for 16 years, often walking between the restaurant and her home on Curtis Tignor Road. Her death led to lots of community interest, with billboards posted by Hardee's advertising a $20,000 reward for the killer.

Another defendant in the case, Michael Johnson Jr., 22, of Catina Way, also has been charged with murder, robbery, aggravated malicious assault, conspiracy to commit a felony and three counts of using a gun in a felony. Johnson has a preliminary hearing set for Dec. 4 in General District Court.

Police said Johnson is not the triggerman in the case, either. Police said they have identified the shooter, and he "is not a threat to the community." That language typically means a suspect is already in custody on unrelated charges. Police said more charges in the case are pending.

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