Can this be Randolph County
Melvin Cain story
Saturday morning, January 1, 1949 Audie Lee Brown shot Edgar Melvin Cain in the
back with a shotgun as they walked through the woods near Pilot Mountain. Brown
had planned the murder in advance. And even had contemplated robbing another
individual as well. On Thursday December 30, Brown and Wade Brady walked into
the Bank of Coleridge in Ramseur and spoke to Garland Allen. Brown had a $100
outstanding note and asked to borrow more. The two also inquired about the
amount of money in the vault. Finally, Brown asked Allen if he wanted to see a
calf, for the purpose of purchasing it. Allen declined and the men left the
bank. The following day, Brown approached Cain with the same offer. Cain agreed
to meet Brown at Brown’s home the next morning. Before leaving for Brown’s,
Cain, who lived in the Erect area, told his wife that he would not be gone long.
He drove his 1948 ¾ ton Ford pickup to Brown’s home where he found Brown just
getting up. Brown said that he did not have the calf, that it was located nearby
and that they could go there on an old woods road. They drove to the old road
and parked the truck and began walking. About ½ mile from the main road, Cain
moved out in front of Brown, Brown raised his 16 gauge Fox shotgun and shot Cain
in the back of the neck. Locals say
that there were two others with Brown at the time, Marvin Staley and Wade Brady.
He then removed Cain’s billfold. Cain was known to carry large sums of money
on his person. His family believed he had between $1000 and $1200 with him.
Brown carelessly dropped the billfold about 100 paces from the body. However, he
did try to conceal the gun, placing it next to log. In his haste he lost the
wood handgrip to the gun in the vicinity of the body. A neighbor, Clifford
Williams heard a shotgun blast about 9:30 that morning near Pilot Mountain but
assumed that someone was hunting and thought nothing more of it.
That evening, Cain’s family became increasing alarmed at his absence and called Sheriff Ben Morgan. Morgan began piecing together the events leading up to Cain’s disappearance. Later that night Morgan located Cain’s pick-up. Clifford Williams had dragged the truck with his tractor to the side of the woods road so he could get a load of wood through. Walking through the woods at night, Morgan and neighbors searched for Cain. In the early morning hours of Sunday, a couple of neighbors located the body along the woods road heading from Holly Springs Church to the foot of Pilot Mountain. Also found nearby was the woodgrip from a shotgun and Cain’s billfold. The billfold contained a driver’s license and other papers but no money. A few nickels and dimes were found in Cain’s pocket.
Audie Lee Brown became the prime suspect. Upon learning of Cain’s
disappearance, police began the search for Brown. Later it was learned that
Brown had traveled from Asheboro to Franklinville to Liberty and finally by taxi
to Ramseur where he was arrested Saturday night by Highway Patrolman
O R Vaughn and Ramseur
Police Chief B C Macon at Poole’s Beer Parlor. A search turned up 3
one hundred dollar bills and $90 in small bills. Also arrested with Brown
were Marvin Staley, Brown’s brother-in-law and Wade Brady. Staley stated that
he had seen Brown and Cain in Cain’s pick-up truck that morning near Holly
Spring’s Church. After being arrested on suspicion, Brown was taken to the
Randolph County jail in Asheboro and later to the Guilford County jail in
Greensboro. After news of his arrest spread, a group of about 300 masked men
assembled outside the Randolph County courthouse and jail where only two
officers were on duty. About 20 of the men were led through the jail to show
them that Brown was not there. Satisfied that Brown was not there the crowd
dispersed peaceably. However, later, a number of vehicles drove through the
Piney Ridge area, a Black community where Brown lived, and fired shots. No one
was injured in the incident.
the next few days, Sheriff Morgan coaxed a confession out of Brown. Morgan
stated that Brown broke down and cried like a baby, saying he didn’t know why
he committed the crime. On Tuesday January 4, Brown was brought back to the
scene of the crime. Handcuffed to Sheriff Morgan, Brown led police along the
woods road and then through some swampland to another woods road which led to
Hal Goldston’s property. There the gun was located near a log.
Brown had disassembled the barrel from the stock and dropped the handgrip
back near the body. A shotgun shell found near the body matched the gun. The
wood handgrip also fit the barrel. This seemed to be more than enough evidence
to convict Brown.
was arraigned in early February and tried at a packed trial about a week later.
Sheriff Morgan was the State’s main witness although a number of others
were paraded through. Judge Coggin removed the jury briefly while deciding if
Brown’s confession could be entered as evidence. Coggin ruled that Brown had
freely given his confession and the trial resumed. Cain’s widow softly wept
while testifying that the wallet was the one she had given Melvin for Christmas.
Brown’s wife also wept during the trial with Brown comforting her several
times. Brown remained composed throughout the trial. The trial lasted a half day
and the jury of 13 men brought a verdict of guilty back in just 4 hours. Judge
Coggin immediately sentenced Brown to die in the gas chamber on April 8. That
night, Sheriff Morgan drove Brown and another prisoner to the State Prison in
Raleigh where Brown was admitted to death row. At the time of the trial, Sheriff
Morgan expected Brown to die as scheduled on April 8, yet an appeal was made on
Brown’s behalf delaying his execution until a later date. Locals say that
Staley and Brady were also convicted and killed themselves before they could be
Home or Randolph County