WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Winston-Salem police said Darryl Hunt died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday.
Police said they found a gun inside the vehicle near Hunt.
Sunday morning, police received a call about an unresponsive man in a truck parked in a shopping center on University Parkway. Police identified Hunt. Police say the vehicle was locked when they arrived. Close friends of Hunt’s tell WFMY News 2 the 51-year-old had Stage IV cancer.
The Winston-Salem Police Department issued a Silver Alert for Hunt Saturday after his attorney, Larry Little, reported him missing. Little told investigators Hunt hadn't been seen for nine days. They're still looking into where he was before he died.
Hunt was wrongfully convicted of the 1984 murder of Deborah Sykes.
Reverend Carlton Eversley met Hunt shortly after his arrest.
“He led his life in a way that honored the community and the struggle and that honored God, in terms of what he didn't have, anger and bitterness and what he did have, determination to help people,” said Reverend Eversley.
Little introduced Eversley to Hunt and together, they worked tirelessly to prove Hunt’s innocence. Eversley was present for every day of Hunt’s trial and was in court for most of the hearings and appeals over the 19 years Hunt was in prison.
He was by Hunt’s side the day he was finally released from prison in December 2003.
“We were celebrating, we were cheering,” Eversley remembered.
Now, a different mood as Eversley reflects on Hunt’s life.
“I think his legacy is twofold,” explained Eversley. “One, the amazing gracefulness that he emerged out of prison with. The lack of bitterness, hatred and anger. It still stuns me to this day and secondly, how determined he was to help people here in Forsyth County with dealing with false accusations or imprisonment in general.”
He added, “He became one of the most impressive human beings I have ever encountered and I will always hold his memory very dear and try to teach others, how do we respond to injustice in our lives?”
Hunt responded to his own injustice not with hate or bitterness but with grace and determination.
“As long as I have known him, he has been generous, gracious, soft spoken but a strong advocate for justice and truth,” said Dr. Stephen Boyd.
Dr. Boyd served on the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice. Hunt founded the organization after he was released from prison.
“He was just adamantly committed to providing resources for people who were coming out of prison, not just innocent people. He was concerned about innocence and so the project, the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, had 3 prongs or initiatives,” explained Dr. Boyd. “One was innocence, one was education about criminal justice reform and the other was about supporting people in reentry. People who were coming back from experiencing incarceration.”
Whether he was providing bus fare or setting up job interviews or helping to prove the innocence of other wrongfully convicted people, Dr. Boyd says Hunt dedicated his life to serving others. Just last month, Hunt spoke at a rally spotlighting Kalvin Michael Smith. Smith is serving a 29-year sentence for the murder of Jill Marker. Hunt believed Smith is innocent.
“Those of us who knew [Hunt] and loved him will recommit ourselves to Kalvin Michael Smith, justice and truth for him, and people like Kalvin Michael Smith and we dedicate that work to the memory of Darryl Hunt,” said Dr. Boyd.
He added, “A very bright light for justice and truth in our lives personally, in our community, and in our nation has gone out and we will miss Darryl dearly.”
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