A 21-year-old has been sentenced to 15-27 months behind bars for an October greenway assault and robbery in Clayton.
Satchel Tobias Needham pleaded guilty to charges of Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury and Common Law Robbery. He will serve his sentence with the North Carolina Department of Corrections.
Wil Smith, a Cleveland High School English teacher, reported that he was walking on a section of trail near Amelia Church Road on the afternoon of Oct. 24, 2018, when two men ran up on him, struck him on his head and stole his iPhone 7, credit card, driver’s license and phone, and then ran off in the woods. The incident left the victim with a deep laceration near his mouth that required medical treatment.
“It was old fashioned police work that brought us to this arrest suspect,” said Clayton Police Chief Blair Myhand after his officers arrested Needham about two weeks after the incident. “Needham was a suspect we had previously arrested during our department’s largest drug operation in 2017, so he was well known to us. Our detectives worked their contacts and were able to gather enough evidence to secure a warrant for his arrest. We knew the incident had set off fears about the safety of our greenways and we hope his arrest and conviction will put the public at ease.”
Clayton has more than 5 miles of greenway trails, several which connect to the East Coast Greenway and Mountains to Sea Trail. They are extremely popular and hundreds of people safely ride, bike and walk them year-round.
In the last 5 years, there has only been one other incident reported on that section of greenway between Lombard & Amelia Church Road. It was an unfounded larceny reported in April 2018.
In all, from 2013 to 2018, on both the Sam’s Branch Greenway and the Clayton Riverwalk on the Neuse – there were 3 dog complaints, 2 reports of damage to construction equipment, one report of items missing from a car in a greenway parking lot, one misdemeanor assault in which the victim and suspect knew each other, and one incident in which 2 people were charged with smoking marijuana.
Clayton Police offer these tips to users of the greenways: Be aware of your surroundings – who’s ahead and behind you. And walk with a friend. Clayton’s trails are a wonderful and scenic network of public open spaces and recreational trails, but they are always safer and more enjoyable to experience with a friend.
Clayton Police have always patrolled the greenways, on bicycles or on 4-wheeled vehicles. They have recently increased patrols, and encourage anyone who may see suspicious activity to call 911 immediately.
Officers were never able to positively identify the other suspect in this October case.