Trial reopens with return to Hilton Head murder scene

astice@islandpacket.comFebruary 26, 2013 

Detectives and emergency responders testified Tuesday about the day Leonard Green's body was found May 23, 2010.

Beaufort County Sheriff's Office deputies discovered the 52-year-old Hilton Head Island man slain near the Pinckney Island boat landing that morning.

He had been shot twice, dragged to the water line and covered with palm fronds and other debris. He could have been killed up to 12 hours before he was found, due to the condition of his body, Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen testified Tuesday during the murder trial of Jerry Lamont Scantling.

The trial, in which the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office is seeking a life sentence for Scantling, began in the Beaufort County Courthouse before Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen.

Green's body isn't all that was found. As investigators swarmed the scene, they collected identity cards, clothing, headphones and a gun later identified as the murder weapon -- a Hi-Point .45-caliber pistol, which had been stolen from a Burton home.

But what was missing from the scene was Green's truck. The red Ford F-150 pickup was entered into a stolen-car database and it didn't turn up until nearly a month later, when Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police reported it had been recovered in Savannah and was in the department's impound lot.

However, other witnesses on Hilton Head Island testified Tuesday that they saw the truck just hours after Green was killed.

Four people questioned by the prosecution and the defense each pointed to the same man they had seen driving it -- Scantling, who was charged with Green's murder more than a year after it occurred.

The witnesses, all of whom had been gathered at the Hilton Head Gardens apartments in the early morning hours of May 24, said that Scantling drove the truck erratically into the complex.

He was trying to sell it, but got no takers from the group chatting and smoking cigarettes in the breezeway.

"Did you think it has his truck?" asked Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton.

"No," said former Hilton Head Gardens resident Ishmael Frazier, who added that it didn't appear that Scantling knew how to drive it.

Another Hilton Head Gardens resident testified that she saw Scantling emptying the contents of the truck into a trash bin at the complex.

Sgt. John Adams of the Sheriff's Office said a search of the trash bin yielded a briefcase, documents and a Pizza Hut name tag, all of which belonged to Green.

Some of the Hilton Head Gardens witnesses said they saw Scantling days later, driving a black Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

That's the car Scantling was driving when he was arrested by the Sheriff's Office days after Green's murder. The Monte Carlo had been stolen in Savannah, the Sheriff's Office has said. At the time of his arrest, Scantling was charged with the burglary of the Burton home where the Hi-Point .45-caliber pistol -- the murder weapon -- had been stolen.

However, Scantling's public defender, Matthew Walker, pointed out that Scantling's DNA was not found on the gun. Instead, he told the courtroom, another person's DNA was lifted from the pistol -- one who has not been identified.

Walker said the headphones were the only item recovered from the Pinckney Island boat landing that had Scantling's DNA on them.

He questioned investigators about why they did not process more items for DNA, including a beer can and cigarette butts found at the scene. He also pointed out that, although other cars were in a parking lot nearby, detectives did not attempt to find or question their owners about the murder.

Sheriff's Office DNA analyst Tim French testified that he took DNA samples from evidence near the murder scene and from Green's truck. The samples were processed at the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and Richland County labs, French said, and it took more than a year to get the results.

Questioning about the DNA samples -- which the Sheriff's Office has said led to the murder charges against Scantling -- will continue today.

Related content

  1. Judge declares mistrial in case of murdered Hilton Head man, October 25, 2012
  2. Hilton Head murder trial begins, October 24, 2012

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