Defendant Given 21+ Years in 2nd-Degree Murder Case

James Willard Thacker, 35, of Hickory, was convicted of second-degree murder during Catawba County Superior Court on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, and will spend at least 21 years in prison.

The Honorable Karen Eady-Williams, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, imposed an active prison term of 21 to 26 years for Thacker after he pleaded guilty to the February 15, 2016, shooting death of 40-year-old Tammy Annette Cloninger, of Hickory.

Thacker will spend his period of incarceration in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.

Thacker offered an apology to Cloninger’s family following his plea to a crime that Judge Eady-Williams said was a result of a horrible choice, something that did not have to happen.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said. “I made a mistake, and I have to live with it every day of my life. I wish it was me instead of her … I’m sorry for my actions.”

Cloninger’s father, Steve, and brother, Tony, addressed the court about the loss of a daughter, a sister and a mother.

“It’s been a rough three and a half years,” Steve Cloninger said. “We miss her a lot. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.”

Lt. Justin Levey led the investigation for Hickory Police Department. Assistant District Attorney Melanie Earles prosecuted the case for the State.

CONTACT: Nathan Key
Phone: 828-695-6193