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Grand jury won’t indict store employee for killing robber with branch

July 8, 1998

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A grand jury refused to indict a supermarket employee for beating a learning-disabled man to death with a tree limb after he stole $130 from a cash register.

``The message is you get what you deserve, but I don’t want to pass judgment on anybody,″ said Howard Cummings, the prosecutor who had urged a manslaughter indictment.

District Attorney Colon Willoughby said the grand jury’s decision effectively ended attempts to prosecute Food Lion employee Daniel Abram Rodbourn, a North Carolina State University student.

Jason Paul Cort, 23, died May 10, a day after he tried to steal the money.

Police said Cort ran out of the store and a manager told Rodbourn: ``Go get him.″

Police said Rodbourn caught up with Cort, the two fought, and Cort broke free. Rodbourn overtook him again and beat him with a tree limb, police said.

Steven Cort, the victim’s father, said police told him one witness reported his son was struck at least 10 times, and a second witness said the victim was hit at least two or three times as he lay on the ground. The elder Cort said police told him the branch was about 5 feet long and 2 inches thick.

Cort was treated for minor injuries and turned over to police, who thought he was drunk and took him to a hospital to sober up. While there, he lost consciousness and died.

Steven Cort said his son had a learning disability and was in a drug recovery program but had graduated in January from a hairstyling school. He was living with his parents.

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