All other storylines from the run-down house on Cowan Street pale in comparison with this one: The body of a 24-year-old woman was found this week in a shallow grave in the side yard, and the authorities say she was a homicide victim. As of Saturday morning the police in Wilmington, N.C., had yet to release her name, but they'd arrested a man named Andrew Bernard Adams and charged him with first-degree murder.
The case became national news on Friday night, after the local media reported that Michael Jordan's high school coach, Clifton (Pop) Herring, lived at the house where the body was found. Herring, profiled in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, himself had been arrested Thursday night, charged with resisting a public officer, and on Saturday morning he remained in jail in lieu of $300 bail. A police spokesman said Herring's arrest appeared to have little or no connection with the body's discovery.
There are many questions still to be answered about this case, and they have nothing to do with basketball. But the case is also the most extreme example of the desperate circumstances Herring has faced since he fell into mental illness and substance abuse almost 30 years ago.
The house on Cowan Street is owned by Leroy Grady, an old family friend of the Herrings. Clifton Herring is the only official tenant at the house, but when Herring let his adopted brother move in, Grady didn't do anything to stop it. From then on, an increasing number of Wilmington's homeless and destitute began loitering in the yard. All kinds of strange characters showed up, including Andrew Bernard Adams, the convicted sex offender who was later charged in the woman's murder.
"Clifton let Bernard move in, because Bernard promised to give him food stamps," Grady said in a phone interview on Saturday morning.
It is not at all clear what Herring knew about the murder, either before or afterward. An officer at the Wilmington Police Department said no one could comment on the matter before Tuesday. But it's important to remember that Herring is mentally ill, and so he's not capable of doing the kinds of things we'd expect from responsible citizens. Grady, the landlord, doubts that Herring had any involvement.
Grady said he has previously gone before a judge to have Herring committed, but he was unsuccessful.
"Somebody has to get this guy some help," he said. "Because I can't do it by myself."