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Granville appoints Sgt. Noblin next sheriff

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OXFORD — The Granville County Board of Commissioners Monday appointed a sheriff’s office sergeant to serve as sheriff while suspended Sheriff Brindell Wilkins faces criminal charges related to an alleged plot to murder a former deputy.

Charles R. Noblin Jr., a sergeant overseeing the civil division, is an 18-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, according to a press release. He took the oath of office Wednesday afternoon.

Noblin will run the sheriff’s office until the end of Wilkins’ unexpired term in December 2022, or until Wilkins returns to his post if the criminal case against him ends without a conviction.

The county said that the commissioners recognize that it may be years before the criminal case is resolved.

Noblin is replacing Chief Deputy Sherwood Boyd, who had served as interim sheriff since September after Wilkins agreed to a court order asking him to step down. Boyd asked not to be a candidate for Wilkins’ replacement because he is eligible to retire in 2021 and “believes that the men and women of the Granville County Sheriff’s Office deserve an assurance of continuity” through 2022, the release said.

Wilkins was indicted by a grand jury in September on two counts of felony obstruction of justice following a 10-month investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation.

According to the indictments, investigators reviewed a tape of a 2014 phone conversation Wilkins had with another person he knows. During the call, Wilkins is said to have urged the other person to kill former deputy Joshua Freeman.

The sheriff believed Freeman possessed and planned to release recordings of Wilkins “using racially offensive language,” the indictments claim. The sheriff had fired Freeman 10 days earlier, county records show.

“The only way you gonna stop him is kill him,” Wilkins was allegedly recorded as saying in the conversation with the would-be killer, who has not been named by authorities.

Documents show that Wilkins, 59, is accused of providing tips to the person on how to execute the killing and to do so “in a manner as to avoid identification.” According to documents, Wilkins is quoted as saying “you ain’t got the weapon, you ain’t got nothing to go on” and “the only way we find out these murder things is people talk. You can’t tell nobody nothin.’”

The sheriff also discussed a specific time and location in Granville County to carry out the killing to ensure his office would investigate, the indictments allege.

Wilkins, a Democrat who came into office in 2009, was served his indictment Sept. 16 by SBI and FBI agents. He appeared before a magistrate and was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond.

Prosecutors have said there is an ongoing second investigation into the sheriff’s office accounting practices and drug interdiction efforts. No details of that investigation have been released.