Mother and Son Indicted After Shallow Grave Found in Backyard Months After TV Confession

Son admitted to burying the body during an interview with a local TV news reporter.

A mother and her 28-year-old son have been indicted by a North Carolina jury after a dead man was found buried in a shallow grave in their backyard last summer. "It's against the North Carolina general statutes to bury someone in your backyard," said police chief Eric Loftin at the time.

In an unusual twist, the son apparently admitted to burying the body during an interview with a local TV news reporter last October. Read on to find out more about the strange case, including why it took so long for the indictment to be handed down after the alleged confession.

1
A Bizarre Confession

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On May 5, Robert Vaughn Pippin, 28, and his mother, Emily Shook Pippin, 53, were arrested on charges of felony concealment or failure to report a death, the Conover Police Department told local station WSOC. Robert Pippin reportedly admitted to burying the body of Richard Morris, 54, during an interview with WSOC last October after police discovered the man's body in September 2022.

Pippin reportedly said that he buried Morris after the man overdosed in the basement, and he regretted the decision. Pippin also reportedly admitted withdrawing some of Morris's disability payments after his death. 

2
Disability Payments Led to Body

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Morris was reported missing by family members on Aug. 26, 2021. He was last seen alive on June 2. Police tracked down his body after seeing that someone was continuing to withdraw Morris's disability payments.

Last month, the state medical examiner determined Morris died from methamphetamine toxicity. The district attorney then decided to charge Robert Pippin and his mother, whose exact role in the burial is unclear.  

3
Charges Awaited Autopsy Results

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Why did it take so long for the indictment to be handed down? Last October, Loftin said that once police received the final autopsy results, they would consult with the district attorney on any charges. "We're not going to pursue any charges until we have the autopsy report with the cause of death," Loftin told the Hickory Daily Record.

"If the facts are (what Pippin told investigators), then that would lead to a certain set of charges. And if something else was to come up, then that could take it down a whole different avenue." 

4
"He Was a Good Man, No Matter What"

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People who knew Morris said they were saddened and confused by the circumstances surrounding his death. "He was a good man, no matter what," friend Angelica Hall told WSOC. "He was someone you could rely on, and he'd be there for you."

"I would like to know for sure what happened and what was going through a young man's mind," she said. "[Pippin] should have at least called someone, called [anyone], you know?"

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5
Defendants Out on Bond

Catawba County Jail

Robert Pippin said he didn't contact authorities for help because he "had his own legal troubles at the time," WSOC reported. The younger Pippin was released on a $10,000 bond, and Emily Pippin was released on a $1,000 bond. 

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