Six months after four people were shot and killed execution-style at a Holly Hill home, the murderers are still being sought.
Five individuals have been taken into custody in the days and months that followed the deaths, but no one has been charged with the murders.
On the muggy morning of July 15, the body of 50-year-old Jerome Butler was found next to a BMW in the driveway of a home at 7050 Old State Road.
Butler is remembered as a happy-go-lucky and helpful man who worked as a mechanic.
In one of the home’s bedrooms, the lifeless body of Krystal Hutto, 28, was discovered. She’s remembered as a mother and someone who tried to help others.
Half-sisters Shamekia Tyjuana Sanders, 17, and Tamara Alexia Perry, 14, were found slain in another bedroom.
Sanders was a rising senior at Lake Marion High School. She looked forward to cheerleading and graduation. She was known for sharing and assisting others.
Perry was looking forward to attending Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5’s School of Health Professions in the fall. She loved babies and her goal was to one day be a pediatrician.
A fifth victim, 8-year-old Dreamzz Nelson, was found in one of the bedrooms. He managed to survive, despite being shot in the head. Once emergency crews arrived on the scene at 7:03 a.m., they called for a helicopter to transport the boy to a Charleston-area hospital.
As word began to spread about the grisly scene, onlookers and families of some of the victims gathered in a grassy area several yards from the home.
Mid-morning, some of the law enforcement officers at the Old State Road residence sped away to an unpaved portion Gemini Drive, near Vance, where a 1990s model Mercedes was found burning.
Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said that the vehicle had been seen at the residence sometime earlier.
At a press conference later that afternoon, Ravenell called the crime “heinous” and warned that anyone who has information about the murders and doesn’t come forward would face potential charges such as “accessory before or after the fact.”
By the next day, July 16, two men were in custody: Robert “Pockets” Bailey, 35, of 11269 Old Number Six Highway, Eutawville, and Christopher Dean Wright, 36, who lived at the Old State Road home. Wright is the father of the slain teens and the injured child, and Hutto’s fiancé.
Both were arrested on outstanding warrants involving drug charges, but were not charged in the slayings.
Ravenell said the arrests were “indirect results of our extensive and ongoing investigation into this horrific incident.”
Bailey was charged with manufacturing marijuana and possession of cocaine. He was also arrested on an outstanding traffic violation of driving under suspension.
Bailey remained at the Orangeburg County Detention Center until Sept. 29. He posted bond and was freed.
Initially, investigators charged Wright on two outstanding warrants from the State Law Enforcement Division which accused him of trafficking cocaine from the home where the slayings took place back on June 21, 2013.
Orangeburg County Magistrate Rob Clariday set a $30,000 bond. Before Clariday set his bond, Wright told the court that he wanted to attend the funeral of Hutto and visit his son in the hospital.
Wright posted bail, but his freedom lasted only a couple of weeks.
Law enforcement arrested Wright again on Aug. 6 in Manning on new charges.
Solicitor David Pascoe, who made a rare appearance in magistrate’s bond court, stated that Wright faces three counts of unlawful neglect of a child, obstruction of justice and trafficking crack cocaine.
This time, Clariday didn’t set bond.
He noted that because Wright was already on bond for two counts of trafficking cocaine, which are considered violent offenses, he would remain jailed until his bond could be considered by a circuit court judge.
Pascoe and Ravenell also stated that Wright had not been forthcoming with information about the July 15 slayings.
“I believe Mr. Wright knows more than what he’s telling us, which is nothing,” Ravenell said.
Ravenell also noted, “He’s the father and because of his lifestyle, his kids are no longer here. And not only that, why would you not cooperate with investigators?”
“It frustrates me,” Ravenell said.
Wright and his attorney, David Williams, appeared before Circuit Judge Ed Dickson on Sept. 3 for a hearing requesting that he set bond.
Dickson upheld Clariday’s order.
Williams told the court that the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office wanted to keep Wright jailed on the charges because he’s being told, “We’re going to press on you and let you solve this murder for us.”
Williams defended his client, stating that Wright also wants the case solved.
“If he had the ability and if he had the resources, I can assure you he’d do everything in his power to solve this murder because he wants the people who are accountable to be held accountable,” he said.
Williams stated that Wright was being “set up as a scapegoat to some degree.”
Williams also said that the sheriff’s office is punishing Wright “for not doing their job.”
Pascoe called the claims ridiculous.
“The sheriff’s office has been done with talking with Mr. Wright. The sheriff’s office has had enough of his lies, misinformation. They don’t want to talk to him, quite frankly, so that’s not why they arrested him. They arrested him because they believe he’s obstructed justice and committed other crimes,” Pascoe said.
One week after the slayings, law enforcement also arrested Michael “Rambo” Deroaknel Smith, 26, of Disciple Way, Moncks Corner.
Investigators say they wanted to talk with Smith about slayings, but when they attempted to interview him at a Mingo Street apartment complex, he sped away from officers, leading them on a high-speed chase where he lost control of his vehicle on Old Elloree Road.
At his bond hearing, Smith told the court that “his name was misplaced with someone else’s name” and he wasn’t the person investigators needed to talk to.
“I would never, ever hurt nobody’s family or their children. I might fight somebody. As you can see, my record’s consistent with that, like I will fight you. As far as committing other things with guns, everybody totes them. That’s like life because of so many things going on in the streets right now,” Smith to Orangeburg County Magistrate Jacob Gillens.
The OCSO charged Smith with failure to stop for blue light and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.
In addition, Smith had two outstanding warrants, one in Summerville for criminal domestic violence and another in Berkeley County for failing to appear in court on a strong-arm robbery charge.
Smith remains jailed at the detention center.
Two other individuals are in custody. Both are charged with obstruction of justice in the slayings.
They were arrested on Nov. 17.
Orangeburg Magistrate Peggy Doremus denied bond on Dominique Marquell Washington, 26, of Ladson and another suspect. The sheriff’s office asked The T&D not to release the name of the other suspect.
Both Washington and the unnamed suspect were arrested on charges that stem from separate interviews relating to the July 15 shootings.
“These individuals are being arrested because they stood in our way of solving this case,” Ravenell said, “Anyone else who impedes this investigation will face charges as well.”
In late October, Ravenell announced the creation of a taskforce to find the killers. He also released profiles of the killers and the killers’ associates.
The taskforce, called the Holly Hill Four, is comprised of the sheriff’s office, SLED, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Holly Hill Police Department.
In addition to the taskforce, the sheriff’s office set up a special hotline for tips in the Holly Hill case. Anyone with information, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is asked to call 1-888-825-7172. A reward of $5,000 is being offered to anyone providing information leading to an arrest and conviction.
Ravenell said at the Oct. 28 press conference, “Every day it’s picking up momentum.”
He remains confident that the case will be solved and those responsible will be brought to justice.
Ravenell said, “There are family members and friends that have an idea. They may not know fully, but they have an idea that ‘my cousin’ or ‘my family, they’re acting funny. They’re acting strange. They’re constantly asking about these murders.’”
The murderers and their associates are “always giving excuses about how they’re not the ones who committed the murders,” he said.
“We are going to solve this case and we want people who may know something about it now to come forward rather than be charged later with accessory, because it’s a possibility,” Ravenell said.
Ravenell held in his hands the funeral programs of Perry and Sanders.
“One of the things I do every day is I sit in my office and I look at these,” he said.
“What I’m holding now should be graduating programs, instead it’s funeral programs,” he added.
“These girls didn’t graduate from high school not because they weren’t smart enough, not because of anything other than somebody took their lives too early,” the sheriff said.