Ernest West Basden

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Ernest West Basden (November 18, 1952 – December 6, 2002) was an American murderer. He was convicted of the 1992 murder of Billy Carlyle White for $300 and in 2002 was executed by the State of North Carolina at the Central Prison in Raleigh.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina on direct appeal described the facts of White's murder as follows:

The State's evidence tended to show Sylvia White wanted to kill her husband, Billy White, for at least a year. She unsuccessfully tried to poison him with wild berries and poisonous plants. She also enlisted the help of Linwood Taylor, Basden's nephew. Taylor then approached Basden and told him he needed a hit man and asked Basden if he wanted the job. Basden initially thought the idea was crazy and refused. Later, when Basden got into financial difficulty he asked Taylor if the offer still stood and agreed to kill White.

Taylor developed a scheme to lure White, who was an insurance salesman, to a location where he could be killed. Taylor pretended to be a wealthy businessman from out of town who had bought property in Jones County and wanted to buy insurance. Taylor arranged for White to meet him in a wooded rural area at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, January 20, 1992. On the day of the murder, Taylor and Basden drove to the designated spot and waited for White.

When White arrived, Taylor got out of his car and introduced himself to White as Tim Conners. Then Taylor said he needed to use the bathroom and stepped to the other side of the road. Basden got out of the car and picked up a twelve-gauge shotgun he had placed on the ground beside the driver's side of the car. Basden pointed the gun at White and pulled the trigger. The shotgun did not fire because Basden had not cocked the hammer back. Basden then cocked the hammer and fired. White was knocked to the ground. Basden removed the spent shell casing and loaded another shell into the shotgun. Basden then approached White, who was lying faceup on the ground, and while standing over White, shot him again. At trial the pathologist testified that White bled to death from massive shotgun wounds to the right upper chest and left lower abdomen. Although his aorta was nearly severed from his heart, White did not die instantly but would have remained conscious for some period of time and would have felt pain.

Basden and Taylor drove back to Taylor's house after the shooting. Taylor said he thought he left a map at the crime scene so they returned and went through White's pockets taking a blank check, wallet, and gold ring. They then returned to Taylor's house and burned all their clothing in the backyard. They also sawed the shotgun into three or four pieces with a hacksaw, put the pieces into a bucket of cement, and threw it over a bridge into the Neuse River. Taylor gave Basden $300.

Prior to Basden's arrest, police officers retrieved two metal base portions of spent shotgun shells which were found in ashes from the fire in Taylor's backyard. Forensic examination indicated they were consistent with twelve gauge shotgun shells and could have been fired from the same weapon. Officers also went to Basden's repair shop in Kinston and retrieved a man's gold-tone ring with three diamond settings from Basden, who had it in his pocket.

Taylor and Sylvia White were arrested for murder on February 12, 1992. Basden went to the Jones County Sheriff's Department where Taylor told Basden that he had confessed. Taylor advised Basden to turn himself in and talk to SBI Agent Eric Smith. Basden was interviewed by Agent Smith and Detective Simms of the Lenoir County Sheriff's Department. After giving some preliminary background information, Basden told the officers that he shot White. The officers immediately read Basden his Miranda rights and Basden signed a written waiver of his rights. Basden then gave a detailed confession and stated that he killed White because he needed the money.

Basden presented evidence that he suffered from depression, arthritis, kidney problems, pancreatitis, and drug and alcohol abuse. He is the youngest of ten children (and thus actually a few months younger than Taylor, his much older sister's son). He was extremely close to his mother, who was killed in a car accident when he was 14 years old, and he never really recovered from her death. Basden had been married once for about five years and was a good father to his stepchildren. Basden was considered by friends and family to be a loner.

Dr. J. Don Everhart, a clinical psychologist, testified that Basden has a dependent personality disorder; he is lacking in self-confidence and clings to stronger people, performing unpleasant tasks for them to retain their support. Dr. Everhart further testified that Basden has an avoidance personality disorder; he is shy and uncomfortable in social settings and is easily isolated. Finally, Basden has a schizotypal personality disorder, with feelings of being disembodied and disassociated from life events.[1]

The State tried Basden for capital murder, and the jury convicted him, less than fourteen months after he shot and killed Billy White. At Basden's trial, the State established the details of the crime that are outlined above, through the testimony of police officers and cross examination of Basden himself. Two officers testified to the contents of several detailed confessions, from both Basden and his coconspirator, Taylor. Moreover, Basden himself took the stand and admitted in cross examination that he was "the one who actually shot Mr. White, "that he agreed to do it the Friday before the Monday murder, and that he "did it for the money."

The jury deliberated for an hour and fifteen minutes before convicting Basden, and for nearly nine hours before issuing its sentencing recommendation. The jury found one statutory aggravating factor—the crime was committed for pecuniary gain—and two statutory mitigating factors—Basden was dominated by Taylor and under the influence of a mental or emotional disturbance. The jury also found five nonstatutory mitigating factors—repentance and remorse, willing assumption of responsibility, religious belief and practice while incarcerated, stress at the time of the crime, confession and cooperation with law enforcement at an early stage of the investigation, and character and prior conduct inconsistent with the crime. In accord with the jury's recommendation, the judge sentenced Basden to death.

Basden appealed his convictions and sentence to the Supreme Court of North Carolina and after that court affirmed the verdict and sentence, the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari. Basden v. Lee, 290 F.3d 602 (2002).

He was executed by lethal injection on June 12, 2002. [1] Declining a special last meal, Basden ate the normal prison meal of breaded veal, brown gravy, mashed potatoes, three-bean salad, mixed vegetables, slices of loaf bread, an orange and fruit punch. [2]

On February 9, 2013 the Investigation Discovery Channel aired an episode of its crime reenactment TV series, "Deadly Sins," depicting the events of the Billy White murder case titled "Small Town Massacre."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ State v. Basden, 339 N.C. 288, 451 S.E.2d 238, 241-42 (N.C. 1994)