Abusive mother gets 15-year prison sentence

ERICA S. KELLEY

Laurens, S.C.; May 24, 2019 — A woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday afternoon at the Laurens County Courthouse to a charge of inflicting great bodily injury on a child, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Friday. Continue reading

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Laurens career meth cook sentenced to 17 years

RONALD J. EATON

Laurens, S.C.; May 22, 2019 — A Laurens man with a lengthy history of manufacturing methamphetamines will spend the next 17 years behind bars after being found guilty at trial of manufacturing and possessing meth, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Wednesday.

Ronald Jeffrey Eaton, 52, was found guilty of manufacturing methamphetamines, third offense, and possession of methamphetamines, third offense, late Tuesday afternoon by a Laurens County jury following a day-and-a-half trial and less than an hour of deliberation.

Circuit Judge Alison Renee Lee then sentenced Eaton to 17 years in prison on the charge of manufacturing methamphetamines, third offense, and 10 years in prison on the charge of possession of methamphetamines, third offense, with the sentences to be served concurrently.

Eaton has a length criminal history, including multiple past meth-related convictions.

In March 2018, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office was actively investigating Eaton and a meth cooking operation at a property on Bobcat Drive where Eaton had his camper parked. The camper was abruptly moved and, shortly thereafter, a tipster reported that Eaton was cooking meth at a property on Boyd Road. Investigators confirmed with Eaton’s probation agent that Eaton had not reported the change in address.

Investigators went to the property on Boyd Road and discovered Eaton’s camper in the woods with Eaton inside. Investigators obtained a search warrant and discovered the remnants of a broken down one-pot meth cooking operation. Investigators were able to establish a timeline showing that Eaton had been manufacturing methamphetamines since his release from prison on a previous manufacturing charge.

Deputy Solicitor Dale Scott and Assistant Solicitor Margaret Boykin handled the case for the state, with the assistance of 8th Circuit Investigator Walter Bentley. Eaton was represented by Dorothy Manigault of the Greenville County Bar.

Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff along with narcotics investigators Sgt. Matt Veal and Inv. Charles Nations of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office in securing the conviction and lengthy prison sentence.

“Drug addiction continues to plague our society in the new millennium,” Solicitor Stumbo said following the trial. “While we recognize that it is only part of the solution, Sheriff (Don) Reynolds and I are pleased to see a lifelong meth cook and dealer like Ronnie Eaton sent to prison for a long time to come, and we will continue our commitment to stopping anyone pushing destructive drugs in our community.”

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Repeat domestic abuser sentenced to 20 years for violent assault

ROBERT L. BRYANT

Abbeville, S.C.; May 14, 2019 — An Abbeville man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday morning after changing his plea to guilty on the day his trial was to begin in connection to a 2018 incident in which he attacked a woman with a box cutter, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Tuesday.

Robert Lamont Bryant, 41, pleaded guilty to a charge of domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. Jury selection in the trial was set to begin Tuesday.

Circuit Judge Roger M. Young Sr. then handed down a 20-year prison sentence to Bryant, which is the maximum sentence under state law for the offense.

Bryant has multiple previous convictions for domestic assaults and had been released from prison only months before committing the box-cutter attack.

In February 2018, the victim, Bryant’s girlfriend, went to pick her son up from school following a bomb threat. Upon arriving back at her home, Bryant accused the victim of leaving to see another man. The victim told Bryant that was not true and went to lie down in her bed. A short time later, Bryant entered the room and cut the victim’s nose with a box cutter, slicing all the way through the side of one nostril, before fleeing the residence. Bryant was arrested and charged in connection to the incident the following day.

Deputy Solicitor Yates Brown and Assistant Solicitor Micah Black prepared the case for trial on behalf of the State, with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigator Chris Wilkie and Victim Advocate Sarah Parris. Bryant was represented by Clarke McCants of the 8th Circuit Public Defender’s Office.

Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff along with first responder Sgt. Aaron Crowe of the Abbeville Police Department in securing the conviction and lengthy prison sentence.

“Violent offenders like Robert Bryant belong in one place: behind bars,” Solicitor Stumbo said following the sentencing. “It was moving to see the courage of this victim by coming forward to confront her abuser in court this week, knowing she would have to relive that horrific attack.  I hope this sentence sends a clear message that, in the 8th Judicial Circuit, we will continue to fight for and protect women who have lived the nightmare of suffering at the hands of an abusive partner.”

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Greenwood man convicted, faces life sentence for 2017 murder

Xzariera O. Gray

A Greenwood man was found guilty late Thursday night of a 2017 murder following a four-day trial at the Greenwood County Courthouse, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Friday.

Xzariera Okevis Gray, 30, was found guilty by a Greenwood County jury of murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. The jury returned the verdict just before midnight Thursday night. Circuit Judge Frank Addy Jr. ordered that sentencing will be held on Tuesday for Gray, who faces up to life without parole on the conviction.

In the early morning hours of August 26, 2017, Gray and 46-year-old Demetrius “Meatball” Fuller were involved in an argument that eventually led to Gray pulling out a gun and shooting Fuller one time. Greenwood police officers were in the area and heard the gunshot. Officers began canvassing the area and located Fuller’s body on Tanyard Avenue. Gray fled the area, but was arrested in Columbia just a few days after the shooting.

Eyewitnesses were able to identify Gray as the shooter and to assist officers in recovering the murder weapon. Investigators were also able to locate surveillance footage from a nearby home that showed Gray shooting Fuller. Gray testified on his own behalf and told the jury he shot Fuller in self defense. The jury rejected that assertion and found Gray guilty of murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Violent Crimes Prosecutor Josh Thomas and Assistant Solicitor Carson Penney handled the trial for the state. Gray was represented by Janna Nelson and Shane Goranson of the Greenwood County Public Defender’s Office.

Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff along with Sgt. William Kay of the Greenwood Police Department in securing the conviction.

“Our community has grown sick and tired of senseless gun violence on our streets,” Solicitor Stumbo said. “I am pleased that this week a dangerous criminal has been removed from society and my office will continue to seek justice against those who willfully disregard the law.”

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Newberry man sentenced to 10 years for church thefts

TERRANCE LENARD CHISOLM

Newberry. S.C.; April 24, 2019 — A string of church break-ins that spanned two counties landed a Newberry man a 10-year sentence after he entered a guilty plea Monday afternoon to charges stemming from the incident, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Wednesday

Terrance Lenard Chisolm, 38, changed his plea to guilty on the day of his scheduled trial Monday on to five counts of second-degree burglary.  Circuit Judge R. Scott Sprouse sentenced Chisolm to 10 years in prison on each of the charges, with the sentences to run concurrently. Chisolm has two prior convictions for burglary.

During the night of May 15, 2018 and the early morning hours of May 16, 2018, Chisolm broke into five churches in Laurens and Newberry counties and stole computers, flat-screen televisions and various other electronic items. Chisolm left a tire iron behind at one incident location and a milk carton with a straw in it at another incident location. Both of those items showed Chisolm’s DNA on them.

Deputy Solicitor Dale Scott and Assistant Solicitor Taylor Daniel handled the case for the state with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigator Walter Bentley and Victim Advocate Rhetta Christian. Chisolm was represented by Charles Verner of the 8th Circuit Public Defender’s Office.

Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff as well as the Laurens and Newberry Sheriffs’ investigators for their stellar work in securing the convictions and sentences.

“The churches in our communities are beacons of light for our communities,” Solicitor Stumbo said following the sentencing. “Terrance Chisolm violated these peaceful sanctuaries simply to pad his own pockets. It is my hope and prayer that Chisolm being brought to justice this week will bring some closure for these bodies of believers across our counties.”

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Career drug dealer sentenced to 15 years in prison

KEVIN WIGGINS

Greenwood, S.C.; April 3, 2019 – A career drug dealer was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to a number of charges on the morning his trial was set to begin, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Wednesday.

Kevin Jermaine Wiggins, 42, of Greenwood, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to trafficking heroin, trafficking crack, trafficking cocaine, second degree assault and battery, two counts of failure to stop for blue light, and two counts of possession of a firearm by a violent felon.

Circuit Judge William Keesley then sentenced to Wiggins to 15 years in prison.

Wiggins on Monday lost a pretrial motion to suppress evidence in his trial and changed his plea to guilty on all charges on Tuesday morning. Jury selection for the trial was held Monday and opening statements were scheduled for Tuesday morning.

In January 2017, agents with Greenwood’s multijurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit were surveilling Wiggins’ home in preparation of serving a search warrant when Wiggins got into his truck and left the residence. DEU agents attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but Wiggins sped away. Agents pursued Wiggins briefly, but called off the chase after observing Wiggins driving the wrong way along McCormick Highway, endangering the lives of innocent motorists.

While agents were pursuing Wiggins, other officers executed the search warrant at Wiggins’ residence and discovered 6 grams of heroin, 64 grams of crack, 21 grams of cocaine, and 53 counterfeit oxycodone pills that were later tested by the State Law Enforcement Division and determined to contain heroin. A loaded revolver was also recovered at the residence. Wiggins is forbidden by law from possessing a firearm after being convicted in 2007 of trafficking cocaine, which is classified as a violent crime under state law. Agents obtained the search warrant as part of an ongoing investigation in which informants had purchased heroin, cocaine, and the fake oxycodone pills that contained heroin.

In July 2018, while out on bond awaiting trial for the January 2017 incident, officers attempted to stop Wiggins near Piedmont Technical College on Emerald Road and Wiggins led officers on a chase along Highway 246, through Hodges, and eventually into Abbeville County where Wiggins wrecked his vehicle near Donalds. Officers apprehended Wiggins in the woods near where he wrecked and located a .380 caliber pistol in his vehicle.

In January 2019, while still out on bond awaiting trial, Wiggins led officers on a third chase after officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop. As one officer approached Wiggins’ stopped vehicle, Wiggins sped away, nearly striking the officer with his vehicle. Wiggins weaved his way through the streets of Greenwood before crashing his vehicle along Pearl Street. Officers located and captured Wiggins immediately after he crashed the vehicle.

Violent Crimes Prosecutor Josh Thomas and Assistant Solicitor Wade Dowtin handled the case for the state. Wiggins was represented by Charles Grose of the Greenwood County Bar.

Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff along with former DEU agents Bryan Louis and Dyar Archibald along with current DEU agent Jaime Lovett in securing the conviction and lengthy prison sentence.

“Our community has no place for repeat offenders like Kevin Wiggins who continually disregard the health and safety of others in order to pursue their self-serving criminal activities,” Solicitor Stumbo said following the sentencing. “We are glad that this man will not be wreaking havoc in the streets for many years to come and will continue to work aggressively with law enforcement to bring those like him to justice.”

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Prosperity man sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for boat ramp stabbing

MATTHEW L. JACKSON

Newberry, S.C.; March 29, 2019 – A Prosperity man will spend the next 15 years in prison after being found guilty Thursday afternoon of an aggravated assault and battery in connection to an incident at the Sunset Boat Ramp, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Friday.

Matthew Legrande Jackson, 29, of Prosperity, was indicted for attempted murder, but was found guilty Thursday by a Newberry County jury of the lesser offense of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (ABHAN) following a four-day trial at the Newberry County Courthouse. Circuit Judge Donald Hocker then sentenced Jackson to 15 years three months in prison for the assault.

In June 2018, Jackson got into an argument with the victim while at the Sunset Boat Ramp. Jackson left the boat ramp but returned some time later. The victim was having trouble starting his motorcycle and was attempting to jump it off when Jackson returned and started a physical altercation with the victim. During the attack, Jackson produced a knife and stabbed the victim five times.

The victim was taken to the hospital in Newberry to receive treatment for his injuries and was later transported to Richland County Hospital to receive further treatment. Jackson could not be located initially but was ultimately apprehended by law enforcement in Sumter County.

Jackson has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2003.  His prior offenses include number of assault-related crimes.

Deputy Solicitor Dale Scott, Assistant Solicitor Taylor Daniel, and Assistant Solicitor Margaret Boykin handled the case for the state with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigator Walter Bentley and Victim Advocate Rhetta Christian. Jackson was represented by Charles Verner of the Newberry Public Defender’s Office.

Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff along with Lt. Garrett Lominack of the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office in securing the conviction.

“Matthew Jackson is a homicide waiting to happen if you look at his behavior throughout his adult life,” Solicitor Stumbo said. “Fortunately, the victim in this case survived this vicious, unprovoked attack.  We are glad that he was able to get some measure of justice this week, and we will continue to work shoulder-to-shoulder with law enforcement to take violent men like Jackson off our streets.”

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Man sentenced to 17 years for DUI crash that killed two bikers

Ronald Derossett, left, stands before the court with his attorney, Bill Yarbrough, during a plea proceeding Friday morning.

Laurens, S.C.; March 22, 2019 — A Greenwood man will spend the next 17 years in prison after pleading guilty Friday morning to two counts of felony DUI in connection to a 2017 incident that cost two Greenwood men their lives, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Friday.

Ronald Lee Derossett, 58, pleaded guilty Friday morning at the Laurens County Courthouse to two counts of felony DUI resulting in death, two counts of felony DUI resulting in great bodily injury, possession of marijuana, and driving under suspension. Derossett was scheduled to go to trial beginning April 1. Derossett was facing up to 25 years on the charges related to the death and up to 15 years on the charges related to the injuries.

Circuit Judge Donald Hocker then handed down a sentence of 17 years in prison on each of the felony DUI resulting in death charges, 10 years in prison on each of the felony DUI resulting in great bodily injury charges and time served on each of the possession of marijuana and driving under suspension charges. The sentences will run concurrently and the court ordered Derossett to pay $15,200 in fines in addition to the prison sentence.

On the evening of May 5, 2017, Derossett was traveling west along Highway 72/221 from Laurens to Greenwood near the Lander University Equestrian Center in his 1999 Jeep just before 9 p.m. when he attempted to turn left onto Evans Pond Road. Derossett never slowed down when making the turn and hit two motorcycles traveling east. The motorcycles were being driven by 45-year-old John Ruley and 57-year-old Tommy Burdette. Each of the motorcycles also had a female passenger. Ruley and Burdette were both pronounced dead at the scene. The two female passengers sustained significant injuries that will likely last many years. Derossett’s blood-alcohol level, which was tested by the State Law Enforcement Division, was .205, significantly higher than the state’s legal limit for intoxication of .08.

Derossett has a criminal history dating back to 1982. The convictions came from four different states and most were substance abuse related.

Solicitor Stumbo and Assistant Solicitor Karissa O’Keefe-Young handled the case for the state with assistance from 8th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Investigator Michael Cox and Victim Advocates Mary Ann Stroup and Sarah Parris. Derossett was represented by Bill Yarbrough of the Greenville County Bar.

Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff in preparing the case as well as the thorough investigation by the state Highway Patrol, in particular Sgt. Jamie Brown and the accident reconstruction team investigator Sgt. Tommy Brooks, in securing the conviction and lengthy prison sentence.

“There is absolutely no reason that John (Ruley) and Tommy (Burdette) should not be beginning to enjoy warmer weather as they ride their motorcycles with the ladies they loved,” Solicitor Stumbo said following the proceeding. “Instead, that night, Ronald Derossett chose to become grossly intoxicated and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is my hope that the families of these two men can begin to heal from this tragedy and that their legacies will live on for generations to come.”

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Repeat offender gets maximum sentence after shooting at Abbeville deputy

MARK ALLEN SIMMONS

Abbeville, S.C.; March 13, 2019 – A repeat offender who shot at an Abbeville County deputy during a traffic stop will spend the next 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to the incident Wednesday afternoon at the Abbeville County Courthouse, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced.

Mark Allen Simmons, 31, pleaded guilty as charged to attempted murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime during the Wednesday afternoon plea proceeding. Circuit Judge R. Scott Sprouse then sentenced Simmons to 30 years in prison, the maximum allowable sentence for attempted murder under state law.

In December 2017, Abbeville County Deputy Tim Wright attempted to perform a traffic stop on a vehicle being driven erratically by Simmons along Highway 28 in Abbeville County. The vehicle immediately attempted to speed away. Simmons pulled the vehicle over to the side of the road and, as soon as the deputy’s vehicle came to a stop, he leaned out the driver’s side window and fired a shot with a long rifle at the deputy before speeding off once again. The shot hit the front of the patrol car near the top of the radiator, right in line with where Deputy Wright was seated in the patrol car.

Deputy Wright immediately began to give chase once more as the vehicle sped away. As the high-speed chase ensued, Simmons leaned out the driver’s window and fired a second shot while a female passenger, Crystal Weaghington, controlled the wheel of the vehicle as Simmons fired the weapon.  Weaghington pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to a felony last month and agreed to testify at trial for the State. She has not yet been sentenced on that charge.

As the pursuit continued through the northern part of Abbeville County, Simmons and Weaghington threw multiple items out of the sunroof the vehicle, including the rifle used by Simmons and a shotgun. Simmons nearly ran a school bus full of elementary-aged children off the road at one point. The bus driver skillfully drove the bus to safety and no children were harmed. Simmons then sped through a busy intersection without stopping just before deputies were able to end the pursuit by executing a “pit” maneuver. Simmons continued to violently resist arrest after he was taken into custody, telling deputies that he was mentally ill and had done “meth, marijuana, and flaaka” in the preceding hours.

Solicitor Stumbo and Assistant Solicitor Micah Black prepared the case for trial for the state, with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigator Chris Wilkie and Victim Advocate Sarah Parris. Simmons was represented by Janna Nelson of the 8th Circuit Public Defender’s Office.

Abbeville County Sheriff Ray Watson said he was thankful for the safety of his deputies and having a dangerous criminal off the streets.

“I am very glad that we were able to get this case resolved and get a dangerous individual off the streets for a long time,” Sheriff Watson said. “I hope that (Simmons) can get the help he needs while he is incarcerated so that he can be a better person in the future.”

Watson also had high praise for his deputies, particularly Deputy Wright, who was recently decorated for his actions at the S.C. Sheriff’s Association.

“I can’t say enough about the dedication of our deputies – especially Tim Wright – who do whatever is necessary to keep our community safe, often putting their lives on the line,” Watson said.

Solicitor Stumbo echoed that sentiment and reaffirmed his longstanding support of law enforcement.

“Firing a weapon at an officer who is just doing his job will not be tolerated,” Solicitor Stumbo said. “If Deputy Wright had been struck and killed by the bullets from Mark Simmons gun, we would be seeking the death penalty. By the grace of God that did not happen and Deputy Wright is still daily serving and keeping Abbeville families safe.  My staff and I will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners in law enforcement who man the thin blue line and keep our communities safe from violent criminals like Mark Simmons.”

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Solicitor’s Office distributes toys to local children in need

Greenwood, S.C.; December 20, 2018 – Eighth Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo on Thursday distributed toys to several local organizations to help needy children have a special Christmas in what has become one of the most beloved traditions in the 8th Judicial Circuit for both program participants and office staff, as well as the local partner nonprofit agencies who distribute the toys to families in need.

The annual tradition that began nearly two decades ago allows participants in diversion programs – such as Pretrial Intervention, Traffic Education Program, and Alcohol Education Program – to purchase Christmas gifts for needy children in lieu of a portion of their community service hours.

Being able to contribute to the lives of others in the community is an enriching experience for participants in diversion programs, according to PTI Director Dale Allen.

“One of my favorite parts of my job is watching people’s eyes light up when they find out they can help children need as part of their program,” Allen said. “It makes a difference in the life of a child and the life of a participant.”

Each year, Allen directs participants to start bringing the toys to the office at the beginning of September. They toys are placed around a tree in the office and the toys begin spilling out across the common area until they are collected by partners in each county who distribute the toys.

The Christmas toy program finds itself right in the crosshairs of Solicitor Stumbo’s mission to balance accountability and restorative justice, though, according to Solicitor Stumbo, it is not exactly the place one would expect to find thousands of dollars worth of toys and over 20 bicycles.

“The Lord opens doors in the most interesting places,” Solicitor Stumbo said. “You wouldn’t think a prosecutor’s office would have the ability to collect so many toys, but every year we have the privilege to distribute them across our circuit and see those in need blessed through it. This is one of the best things we get to do every year.”

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