Conover Man Found Guilty of First-degree Murder

A Conover man will spend the rest of his life in prison after a Catawba County jury found him guilty of first-degree murder on Friday, March 18, 2022, to conclude a week-long trial.

Scott Anthony Putnam, 41, of Conover, was convicted for the July 24, 2018, shooting death of 24-year-old Anthony Andrew Killian at the victim’s Conover residence.

The jury also found Putnam guilty of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill for attacks on Killian’s parents, Donald and Roxanne Killian.

The Honorable J. Thomas Davis, Superior Court Judge from Rutherford County, imposed a life sentence without parole for Putnam following the jury’s verdict on the first-degree murder charge that came after less than five hours of deliberations.

Judge Davis also gave Putnam two sentences of approximately 20 to 25 years each for the attempted murder and assault charges. Each of those terms will be served consecutively to the life sentence.

The trial started on Monday, March 14, 2022, with jury selection that lasted less than two days followed by opening statements from Assistant District Attorney Howard Wellons and Defense Attorney Scott Matthews.

The State began evidence presentation on Tuesday that concluded Wednesday. The defense offered evidence on Wednesday that concluded Thursday when Putnam took the stand. The case was given to jurors just before 5 p.m. Thursday, and they deliberated for about four hours on Friday before returning the verdict.

Evidence showed that Putnam went to the Killians’ residence with a revolver in his possession around 10 p.m. on July 24, 2018, and knocked on the door of their mobile home. Roxanne Killian answered, and when Anthony came to the door, Putnam shot him in the left cheek with that revolver.

As he stumbled through the home, Anthony Killian was shot four more times by Putnam who also shot Roxanne Killian in the arm and hit her in the face with the revolver. The victim collapsed into his father’s arms and slumped to the floor.

Donald Killian struggled to get the weapon from Putnam, but the defendant pointed the gun barrel at Donald Killian’s eye. Putnam pulled the trigger twice but was out of bullets. Before he left the mobile home, Putnam paused and told Donald Killian to be glad he was out of bullets. He then left the residence, threw the revolver into a wooded area, changed clothes from a bag that had been packed and hid until the following morning when he was arrested.

The autopsy report showed that Anthony Killian died from gunshot wounds to the head, arm, chest and back.

Putnam alleged that Anthony Killian had sexually assaulted one of his daughters, and he went to confront him about it, though there had been no definitive evidence to show that to be the case.

He testified that he found the gun used in the shooting under his porch the same day of the shooting and that he walked more than a mile through a dark wooded area to reach the Killian residence. Putnam admitted on the stand that he pointed the gun and pulled the trigger to shoot Anthony Killian but later said he did so accidentally, claiming the victim reached for the gun while it was tucked in the waistband of his pants. He said he did not remember shooting or hitting Roxanne Killian nor did he recall pointing the gun at Donald Killian.

In his closing remarks to the jury, Matthews pointed to that allegation along with the fact that his client had been drinking, was not taking his prescribed medication and was coping with his own personal experiences from many years ago. He argued that his client may have been guilty of voluntary manslaughter but not first-degree murder or attempted murder.

“I’m not up here to make excuses for Scott’s behavior. I’m not up here saying he’s innocent. I’m not up here saying he doesn’t deserve punishment … We do not take a position that he should walk away from this,” Matthews said, adding, “This is not a who did what. This is a why. The why is equally as important as who or what … He lost it. He just lost it.”

Chief Assistant District Attorney Lance Sigmon focused on the accountability of the defendant and his exhibition of vigilante justice, noting that two weeks prior to the fatal shooting that Putnam had told Jaclyn Flowe of the Catawba County Department of Social Services that he wanted to “hurt Anthony.” He also observed that Anthony Killian’s parents, Donald and Roxanne, were completely innocent in the events that unfolded that night.

“We don’t, as a society, take responsibility for things we do anymore. We try to make excuses and lessen the punishment we’re entitled to (receive). This defendant appointed himself judge, jury and executioner without ever giving Anthony a chance to defend himself,” Sigmon told the jury. “He was going to take the law into his own hands. He decided to enact his own form of vigilante justice.

“Now is the time to hold him accountable. This defendant is not above the law. He knew what he was doing was wrong.”

Kerry Penley and Michael Hoyle led the investigation for the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant District Attorneys Lance Sigmon and Howard Wellons prosecuted the case for the State.