$5,000 reward offered after former NC deputy found dead in park

William Joseph Clifton (Photo: WNCT)

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A man found shot to death in a park in Jacksonville has been identified by police as a former Onslow County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

William Joseph Clifton, 48, of Richlands, was found dead Friday morning. Police received a call about a body in Woodlands Park around 6:30 a.m., a discovery that forced officers to block off the area around the park for several hours.

The park is behind an elementary school and is surrounded by multiple subdivisions.

William Joseph Clifton (Photo: WNCT)

Residents who live in the area say an event like this is unusual.

“I’ve lived here about 10 years,” Sebrina Sweeney, who lives near the park, said. “It’s a very safe neighborhood, at least it’s always felt very safe.”

Many residents say with the Fourth of July weekend, they weren’t necessarily listening out for the sound of gunshots.

“We went to bed relatively early and were up very early this morning, but nothing,” Linda Preston, who lives in front of the soccer park, said. “I didn’t hear anything until I saw all of the police going into the park early this morning.”

They say waking up to find police blocking off the entrances to the park was shocking.

“About 7:30 this morning our doorbell rang and a detective asked us had we noticed anything last night, anything odd or did we hear any gunshots during the night,” Barbara Edwards, who lives across from the park, said.

Clifton was released by the sheriff’s office in February 2016. Police say this was an isolated incident and anyone with information is asked to give them a call.

There is a $5,000 reward being offered for information about the shooting. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Detective Daniel Karratti at 910-938-6410 or karratti@jacksonvillenc.gov or Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273.