One of three suspects in brutal murder, dismemberment of Rowan teen pleads guilty

Michael Elijah Early was beaten to death in May 2019.
Carlos Rosas pleaded guilty to the brutal murder of Michael Elijah Earley, leading to a sentence of life without parole.
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 2:20 PM EST
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - One of three suspects who was charged in the brutal murder and dismemberment of a Rowan County teen took a plea agreement in court on Friday.

Carlos Rosas, 23, pleaded guilty to second degree murder, felony conceal/destroy remains, kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and obstruction of justice.

Following his plea, he was sentenced to between 560-730 months (46-60 years) in prison.

According to Rowan Co. District Attorney Brandy Cook, the victim’s mother and father, along with law enforcement, were in agreement to this disposition which allowed them:

  1. a guaranteed/known result.
  2. a significant prison sentence for the defendant.
  3. to avoid a painful jury trial for the family, along with appellate review of any trial.

Earley’s mother is thankful that justice has been served, but no amount of justice can heal the broken families left from this tragedy.

“It doesn’t matter how many years he gets,” said Jessica Earley, “it doesn’t bring my son back. And sadly two families have now lost their kids basically.”

Detectives with the Rowan Sheriff’s Office began the investigation on May 6, 2019, after Michael Elijah Earley was reported missing by his girlfriend. Earley was last seen around 10 p.m. on May 5, 2019, at his home on Sides Road near Haynes Drive, north of Rockwell Park.

According to warrants, the girlfriend told deputies that Earley tried to make a drug transaction on the night of Sunday, May 5, 2019, with Lauren Grimes and a man named Carlos. The girlfriend never heard from Earley again, the search warrants said.

According to search warrants, Earley was beaten to death. Officially, he died from blunt force injuries to the head, according to the official autopsy. His remains were taken from Sides Road, and dismembered, then taken to Rosas’ home on Percy Lane in Rockwell. The remains were burned and buried in the backyard.

When investigators, including Chad Moose of the Rowan Sheriff’s Office, went to Rosas’ home, Moose spotted an aluminum baseball bat that appeared to have blood on it. Moose also said that a burn barrel there looked as if it had been recently used.

Moose also noted a shovel in the backyard and freshly turned dirt in a small pile. A black Toyota Camry with cleaning products and a box of rubber gloves inside it was parked at the house. The car was covered with a blanket.

Rosas Jr, 19, was charged, along with Madison Drew Harrington, 18, and Lauren Grimes, 19.

According to a warrant, Rosas admitted to the crime and told detectives he fought with Earley and struck Earley with the bat. Rosas said Earley died from the assault. Rosas walked to an area about 100 yards from the house and showed the detectives an area with freshly disturbed dirt that was covered with leaves, warrants stated.

Rosas was charged with murder and felony concealment of death and Harrington was charged with accessory after the fact. Grimes was arrested on May 9, 2019, and charged with accessory after the fact of murder just hours after Harrington was taken into custody.

Grimes is being held under a bond of $300,000 in the Rowan County Detention Center. Madison Harrington made bond of $500,000 and was released to await trial.