ENFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) — A man will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing five people in 2017 and 2018.

James Edward Powell was given four life sentences Wednesday afternoon after entering an Alford plea in Halifax County Superior Court in connection with the August 2017 murders of James and Janice Harris and James and Peggy Whitley of the Glenview community. A judge also sentenced him to up 32 years and nine months for the January 2018 murder of Travis Johnson of Roanoke Rapids.

James Edward Powell (Halifax County Sheriff’s Office)

The Halifax County district attorney’s and sheriff’s offices called the crimes violent and senseless.

“The horror that these three families have had to endure is unimaginable,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

An Alford plea allows a defendant to admit guilt toward charges in criminal court while also expressing innocence toward the same charges.

Halifax County deputies said Powell’s plea and evidence in the two cases support Powell’s involvement in the crimes. They also said authorities do not have any other evidence connecting anyone else to the crimes.

The reassurance comes after charges were dropped in February 2022 for three of four people original identified as suspects in the 2017 quadruple murders.

“The Halifax County Sheriff’s Office prays that today’s court action brings about some semblance of closure for these three families,” Halifax County Sheriff Tyree Davis. “They have had to endure many years of pain and suffering and we only hope that they find some comfort in Powell’s plea.”