Investigators claim she was so terrified that she died of a heart attack.
In September 2008, Whitfield and an accomplice planned to rob a credit union in Gastonia, North Carolina, using semiautomatic rifles. Their plans were thwarted when employees saw them coming and locked the bank's security doors.
Not able to get inside the bank, the two fled the scene, but soon crashed their vehicle on Interstate-85. The other robber was captured by police at the crash scene, but Whitfield was able to get away and made it to Parnell's home.
Death Was Unintentional
Police say that Whitfield never touched Mary Parnell. In fact, he told her that he wasn't going to hurt her and told her to sit down in a chair in her bedroom. But the grandmother of five died of a heart attack.
When Parnell died and slumped over in the chair, Whitfield fled again and broke into a neighbor's home. He was later arrested walking in the same neighborhood.
Whitfield is being charged under North Carolina's felony murder rule, which allows prosecutors to bring murder charges even if the defendant does not intentionally harm someone.
In is usually used to bring charges against an accomplice. For example, if a bank robber kills someone during a hold up, the getaway driver can be charged with the murder also. In North Carolina, the felony murder rule applies if someone dies during the commission of a burglary, rape or kidnapping.
"If you're committing any of those offenses and a person dies, that's first-degree murder," said prosecutor Locke Bell.
Photo: Mug Shot