Earlier today, in Anderson County General Sessions Court, Perry Pruitt pled guilty to one count of the Destruction, Desecration, or Removal of Human Remains.  He was sentenced by Judge Lawton McIntosh to 10 years suspended to 4 years of active jail time to be followed by 4 years of probation.  He will get credit for 728 days he has already served.  The defendant entered his plea under State v. Alford, otherwise known as a “no contest” plea. 

Mr. Pruitt was the boyfriend of the victim, Patricia Ann Freeman. She was reported missing by her family in February of 2015, although it was later determined the last time she was seen was September 8, 2014.  Her body was discovered by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office in a well on property belonging to Mr. Pruitt.  

Anderson County pathologist Dr. Brett Woodard conducted an autopsy on the victim on Feb 22, 2015.  Although her body appeared to be mostly intact upon extraction, his report notes advanced decomposition.  Upon examination, he discovered a fracture to her cervical spinal column.  However, he waited to issue a report until toxicology results were obtained.  In a report dated Aug 18, 2015, SLED toxicologist found no drugs or poisons of concern, after testing muscle tissue from the victim.  At that time, Dr. Woodard determined that the victim died from a broken neck and stated the cause of death was homicide.  Mr. Pruitt was thereafter charged with the murder of Patricia Freeman and also the destruction, desecration or removal of human remains.  While the State was preparing this case for trial, additional tissue samples from the victim collected during Dr. Woodard’s autopsy were subsequently submitted to SLED for further toxicology testing.  In a report dated Aug 17, 2017, SLED toxicologists found cocaine and its metabolite in tissues from the victim’s brain and liver.  In light of this new result, Dr. Woodard amended his findings.  Due to the levels of cocaine and its metabolite found, he was no longer able to say Patricia died from a broken neck, and ruled her cause and manner of death to be undetermined.  For this reason, the murder charge originally brought against the defendant was no longer pursued by the Solicitor’s Office.

Today in Anderson in the Court of General Sessions, Jonathan Hamby pled guilty to one count of Felony Driving Under the Influence Resulting in Death and one count of Felony Driving Under the Influence Resulting in Great Bodily Injury and received a sentence of 15 years suspended to 11 years incarceration with 5 years of probation to follow before Judge R. Scott Sprouse of the Tenth Judicial Circuit.  Stan Overby represented the State during the plea, and Mr. Hamby was represented by attorney Druanne White. 

On May 4th, 2016 at 9:10 AM a pickup truck being driven by Hamby crossed from the South bound inside lane of SC 28, travelled over the median, and collided head on with a 2003 Chevy sedan.  The driver of the Chevy sedan, Loretta Pressley, was killed upon impact, and Ms. Pressley’s minor grandson, who was in the vehicle as well, suffered a facial and pelvic fracture during the collision.  Hamby was transported to AnMed from the collision scene, and results of a blood draw following a search warrant showed he had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the incident. 

Following the plea, Solicitor David Wagner stated that “this tragedy illustrates how dramatic and far reaching the results of drug use and of driving while impaired can be.  Ms. Pressley’s grandson had to witness his grandmother’s death, and no child should have to experience something so harrowing.  My heart breaks for the child, and goes out to the family of Ms. Pressley today.”

 

 

A man charged with the brutal murder and attempted murder of two people who picked him up while he was hitchhiking on Christmas Eve of 2014 will spend the rest of his life in prison. On Wednesday, The Honorable R. Scott Sprouse sentenced John Asher Farrell Villarreal to life for the murder of Mary Fowler, and handed down sentences of 30 years in prison each for charges of Carjacking and the Attempted Murder of James Dobson. Villarreal was also sentenced to 5 years for Possession of a Weapon during the Commission of a Violent Crime.

Villarreal pleaded guilty to all charges against him. Senior Assistant Solicitor Lauren Davis Price presented the case for the State, and Lee Cole represented the Defendant during the plea hearing.

Both Price and Solicitor David Wagner for the Tenth Circuit asked the Court for a life sentence. Solicitor Wagner had this to say following the sentence by the Court:

“There is no place for someone like John Villarreal in our society. His actions were heinous and cold, and show his complete lack of respect for human life. He took one life and permanently altered another. He was planning to take more lives but he was apprehended thanks to the hard work of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. The Court gave Mr. Villarreal the right sentence. A life sentence is the only way to protect society from the terrible danger he presents, and it is the only sentence befitting of the brutal crimes he committed.”  

The following detailed facts were presented by the State during the plea hearing:

On December 23, 2014 the defendant received a Facebook message from a girl living in Fitzgerald, Georgia, who he was in an online romantic relationship with at the time. The girl was 17 years old. She told the defendant that her step-father was abusing her. The defendant did not own a vehicle, so he asked her if he could manage to steal a car to come pick her up if she would go with him. She said she would.

On December 24, 2014 the defendant tried to hotwire a car, but was unsuccessful. He was standing in the road in the area of Fletcher Street in Greenville wearing a rain suit when the victims, James Dobson and Mary Fowler, stopped their car to speak with him. He asked them for a ride to I-85, and they agreed on a price of $5 for the ride. Once they got to the Interstate, the victims agreed to take the defendant to the Georgia state line for an additional $25.

During this ride the defendant asked the driver, James Dobson, to pull over so he could urinate. As soon as Mr. Dobson pulled over and put the car in park, the defendant shot Mary Fowler, the passenger, in the back of her head once, and then shot James Dobson multiple times. The defendant then dumped the bodies of the victims on the side of I-85 and left them there to die.

He then drove their vehicle, a Hyundai Elantra, to the first exit South to get rid of their belongings, which he dumped by the side of the road. He pulled up the street and swapped the tag of the Hyundai with a tag from a white SUV. He then proceeded to Love’s Truck Stop where he cleaned out the car and cut the seatbelts out of the car because of the bloodstains, then continued to Georgia.

Once there, at noon on the 24th, the defendant got in an altercation with the mother of the girl and police were called, he was soon released and headed back to South Carolina. On his return he was stopped by a Georgia State Trooper and was issued a speeding ticket.

Back in South Carolina the defendant headed to what he calls his “safe house” which is a property on Fletcher Street within Greenville County. He then rode his bike to his home in Travelers Rest.

At 6:17 AM on the 24th a call came in to 911 to report a male laying on the right shoulder of I-85 at Mile Marker 16 within Anderson County. Deputies responded and found the victims, who were both still alive at this point. They were transported to the ER and treated. Mary Fowler died in the evening of the 24th from her gunshot wound, and Mr. Dobson was in critical care.

Several days passed, until the 29th of December when the defendant attempted to retrieve the girl from Georgia once again. Again, he was unsuccessful. He drove back to South Carolina, but instead of returning to his “safe house” he stopped at the home of a friend in Anderson County. He also went to the Anderson Library to send a Facebook message to the girl in Georgia. Upon returning to the friend’s home in Anderson, the defendant parked the vehicle in front of their property. Deputy Coward with the ACSO was driving by at 10:28 that morning when he observed the Hyundai, which matched the description of the vehicle law enforcement had been searching for during this investigation, which was occupied by a white male. He approached the vehicle, and it is at this time the defendant was apprehended.

The defendant gave two statements to law enforcement after his arrest, first providing a false narrative and blaming his possession of the car on a friend who he said let him borrow it. The defendant then gave a second statement to law enforcement, confessing to all of these events, and providing explicit details about his plans, including how he intended to return to Georgia for a third time to do what he called a “wet extraction” of his online girlfriend where he planned to kill her step father, mother, and older brother. He explained to law enforcement he called it a “wet extraction” because it is so bloody.

Four firearms were recovered from the defendant’s vehicle, along with the rain suit which he told investigators he planned to wear in Georgia during the extraction because it was black and because blood would wash off of it easily. The gun used to shoot the victims, a Walther model P22 semiautomatic pistol, was in the vehicle, and was later matched by a firearms expert. It was outfitted with a laser sight. A Ruger rifle & pistol were also in car, along with a Bursa .380, and another rifle was found in his home.

In the defendant’s home, investigators found materials from Mr. Dobson’s wallet that the defendant had kept, alongside articles from local newspapers detailing the killing and the investigation, along with two shell casings from the bullets used to shoot Mr. Dobson and Ms. Fowler. They also found materials used to construct silencers, which the defendant admitted making and using during this incident, and at other times as well. During his interview the defendant described how he constructed the suppressors in explicit detail.

During his interview, the defendant also admitted to setting up training areas in Greenville County and practicing tactical shooting.

James Dobson survived the attack, but suffered two gunshot wounds to the head. Bullets entered behind his right ear and came out of his left eye. He still has 6 bullet fragments in his brain. His left eye is completely gone, and he has very limited vision in his right eye. He is paralyzed on his entire left side. He can no longer walk, take care of his own personal needs, has slurred and slowed speech, and is in constant pain.

In Anderson General Sessions Court today, thirty-four year old Kwan Raylee Fowler pled guilty but mentally ill to a charge of Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature. The Honorable Cordell Maddox sentenced the defendant to 20 years suspended to 15 years in prison with 5 years’ probation to follow. The State was represented by Sr. Assistant Solicitor Kristin Reeves. 

Anderson County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a domestic dispute call on April 25, 2016 to an address on Pocalla Way in Anderson, where they found the victim, the girlfriend of the defendant, with several large burns to her neck, hair and multiple areas of her body. The victim told officers that she had been assaulted at her home which was about a block away and ran to this address for safety and to call for help. After arguing for several hours, Fowler grabbed a lighter and lighter fluid which he sprayed on the victim and set her on fire in front of two of her children. Ms. Smith was able to escape to the children’s bedroom, where she climbed out of the window and fled to her mother’s home for help.  The victim’s four children remained locked in two bedrooms. As she ran away, Ms. Smith looked back and saw Fowler drive away. He was later arrested at St. Francis Hospital, although he stated he did not know how or why he was there. Ms. Smith was transferred from AnMed Medical Center to the Augusta Burn Center. 

Solicitor David Wagner stated, “Kwan Fowler is a serious danger to the community. Ms. Smith and her family will be safer with him in prison for the next 15 years. Although she continues to receive treatment, the pain and scarring are a lasting reminder to her of the devastating effects of domestic violence. Our community must become involved in helping to prevent and reduce the incidences of domestic violence. If you are a victim of domestic violence, reach out for help. Counseling, shelters and other services are available to those who ask. One organization that offers help is Safe Harbor which can be reached by calling 1-800-291-2139.”