Investigators believe St. Helena murders tied to drugs

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comNovember 7, 2011 

Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigators believe a pair of murders last month on St. Helena Island may have been drug-related, and are again asking residents for help.

DNA, ballistic and other forensic evidence collected after the October killings of Joseph Frank Washington, 32, and Julius Edward Chaplin, 44, still is being processed, but investigators suspect drugs may be a link between the two killings, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh said.

"Some preliminary findings suggest that the two murders are connected to each other and that the murders are drug-related," McIntosh said. "Hopefully the results of the forensics will offer more details."

Chaplin was found dead Oct. 5 in the driveway of his home on Fripp Point Road after being shot twice in the head, authorities said.

The next night, residents reported a Buick sedan on fire in the woods near Folly Road. Washington's body was discovered in the burning wreckage.

Pathologists at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston determined Washington was killed by a gunshot to the head before the car was set on fire, according to the Beaufort County Coroner's Office.

McIntosh said both men were "well-known" by area law enforcement.

According to county court records, four of Chaplin's 15 arrests since 1994 were for drug-related offenses.

Washington was never arrested in Beaufort County for a drug-related crime, county court records show.

No suspect has been identified in either killing, and McIntosh said investigators could use the help of local residents.

"(There has been) very little cooperation from the community," McIntosh said.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

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