LAURENS, S.C.; February 2, 2024 – A Whitmire man will spend the next three decades behind bars after pleading guilty Wednesday to shooting a man and leaving him for dead along a roadside in Newberry County, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Friday.
Blaize Pedro Plaza, 21, of Whitmire, pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon at the Laurens County Courthouse to a charge of murder. Circuit Judge Frank Addy Jr. then sentenced Plaza to 30 years in prison. Under South Carolina law, sentences for murder must be served day-for-day, with no possibility of parole or early release. Plaza’s trial was scheduled to go forward on Monday, February 5th in Newberry.
Just a few days before Christmas in 2021, Plaza and his girlfriend were riding with the victim, 24-year-old Jamal Alston, in the early morning hours when an argument ensued. Alston pulled the vehicle over alongside Highway 66 in the Whitmire area of Newberry County to allow Plaza to use the restroom. At some point during that stop, Plaza shot Alston five times with a 9 mm pistol before fleeing the scene in Alston’s vehicle, leaving Alston gravely wounded on the side of the road.
A passing motorist spotted Alston and contacted authorities for help. About the same time, a vehicle fire was reported in Union County. The vehicle belonged to Alston. Investigators quickly developed Plaza as a suspect and within 24 hours they located and interviewed both Plaza and his girlfriend. Plaza confessed to the crime and his story was corroborated by his girlfriend.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy Solicitor Taylor Daniel and Assistant Solicitor Bret Price, with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigator Jeremiah Sinclair. Plaza was represented by Tristan Shaffer of the 8th Circuit Public Defender’s Office.
Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his team, along with Maj. Robert Dennis and Lt. Michael Claytor of the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office and State Law Enforcement Division investigators Michelle Rice-Johnson and Jacob Pridgeon, in securing the conviction and lengthy prison sentence.
“What likely started as a good night for Jamal Alston ended in tragedy over a meaningless argument,” Solicitor Stumbo said. “I cannot say enough about the great investigative work done in this case that allowed us to get justice for Jamal and his family quickly. I pray his family can find closure and begin to heal from the senseless death of their loved one.”