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Mother and son indicted over man buried in backyard shallow grave – months after son admits to burying him during TV interview

Robert Pippin (R) and Emily Pippin (L)

Robert Pippin, on the right, and Emily Pippin, on the left, appear in mugshots set against the home where a man was found buried. (Catawba County Jail; Screengrab via WSOC)

A mother and her adult son were recently indicted by a grand jury in North Carolina over a dead man who was allegedly found buried in a shallow grave in their backyard late last summer.

Robert Vaughn Pippin, 28, whose last name has also been spelled Pippen, reportedly admitted to burying the body of Richard Morris, 54, during an interview with Charlotte-based ABC/Telemundo affiliate WSOC last October – after the man’s barely covered corpse was discovered by police on the strength of a tip in September 2022.

“It’s against the North Carolina general statutes to bury someone in your backyard,” Conover Police Chief Eric Loftin mused at the time.

Last Friday, Pippin and his mother, Emily Shook Pippin, 53, were arrested after being served their indictments on charges of felony concealment or failure to report a death, the CPD reportedly said Tuesday.

Though quite a long time coming, the charges were, in a sense, hardly ever in doubt.

Pippin reportedly told WSOC reporter Dave Faherty that he regretted the decision to bury Morris and that he only did so after the older man overdosed in the basement. The defendant also reportedly admitted to withdrawing Morris’ disability payments after he died.

According to that report, the younger Pippin, when asked to account for why authorities were not alerted to Morris’ death, said he had his own “legal troubles” at the time.

The alleged role of Robert Pippin’s mother is not immediately clear.

Morris was reported missing by family members to the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 26, 2021. He was reportedly last seen alive on June 2, 2021. Police say they were able to hone in on his location after the disability payments continued to be withdrawn.

“As soon as we get the autopsy report back and actually have a cause of death, then we will have an idea of how we need to proceed with the case,” Loftin said last fall – after the body was identified.

“We’re not going to pursue any charges until we have the autopsy report with the cause of death,” the police chief added in comments to the Hickory Daily Record in October 2022. “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.”

In April, the Conover Police Department received Morris’ autopsy report from the North Carolina State Medical Examiner’s Office, according to Hickory, North-Carolina-based independent TV station WHKY. Morris died from methamphetamine toxicity.

Robert Pippin was granted a $10,000 secured bond. Emily Pippin was granted a $1,000 secured bond. Both defendants were able to post bond and are no longer being detained. Their first court appearance was on Monday.

The case has saddened and puzzled those who knew Morris.

“He was a good man, no matter what,” Angelica Hall, a friend of the deceased 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,” Hall added. “[Pippin] should have at least called someone, called [anyone], you know?”

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