Man jailed for five years on murder charge asks for trial

Billy Brinson wants to go to trial.

Brinson has been in jail since 2018 on a first-degree murder charge, and he is frustrated because he has not been allowed a bond and hasn't recently appeared in court.

"I know it's getting ridiculous. I've been here five years. No court date, no bond, nothing. I've wrote Raleigh. I've tried to call my lawyers. I tried to write the DA myself… Nobody's doing anything. I have nothing to hide. I'm ready to go to court," he said.

Brinson is among five people accused of killing Kenneth A. Pilgrim, who was also known as Kenneth Black. Pilgrim, 44, was killed sometime in early August 2018 in the View Heights Court area, just north of the South Carolina line west of Gastonia.

Pilgrim died of blunt force trauma, and he was a resident of the Cleveland County town of Grover. A state Department of Transportation worker found his body, which had been there for several days, and family members identified him using his tattoos.

One of the people, William Glenn Bell Jr., 37, of Gastonia, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in August and was sentenced to 17 to 21 years in prison.

Brinson, for his part, is unhappy with how slowly his case has progressed.

"I have nothing to hide. I'm ready to go to court," he said. "I've had to sign my rights over to my kids, my wife's divorced me, my sister's passed away. Nothing is going on for me, and it's hard to do anything back here."

Brinson said that he had recently been released from prison at the time of Pilgrim's death. He has a lengthy criminal record and was convicted most recently in 2015 of identity theft and speeding to elude arrest. He was released from prison in 2017, according to state records.

"They can look at my past record. Everything I've done, I've admitted to. I turned myself in for it. I'm ready to go home," he said. "I'll be 40 years old this year, and I've been sitting here for five years. I'm ready to go home."

Brinson's attorney, Rick Beam, said that he is working to arrange a trial date in Brinson's case. He said that the pandemic put criminal trials on pause for two years, and compounding the problem is that not many attorneys in Gaston County handle potentially capital indigent murder cases anymore.

"We're well aware he's been there that long, and we're trying to get his case resolved and/or get it set for trial," he said.

The other three people suspected in the killing also remain in Gaston County Jail without bond awaiting trial on the charge of first-degree murder:

  • Tristan Thomas West, 36, of Gastonia

  • Wade Nelson Nations, 58, of Gastonia

  • Carla Jean Black, 30, of Blacksburg, South Carolina

Black and Pilgrim were married in January 2017.

Judge gavel
Judge gavel

This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Man jailed for five years on murder charge asks for trial