Man accused of murdering Pritchardville woman to stay in jail

sbowman@islandpacket.comAugust 28, 2013 

In this file photo, Walter William Glass walks into the Magistrates Court to appear before Judge Ned Tupper for his Aug. 1 bond hearing on burglary and armed robbery charges at the Beaufort County Jail on Thursday morning in Beaufort. At that hearing, Judge Tupper denied bond. On Wednesday, Glass waived his right to bond on the murder charge he faces. On Friday, a judge ruled the case will be heard by a grand jury.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

The man accused of murdering a Pritchardville woman in July waived his right to bond Wednesday and will remain in jail.

Walter William Glass, 41, has been in the Beaufort County Detention Center since his arrest July 31 on a charge of murdering Melanie Lowther.

Glass also has been charged with armed robbery and burglary in connection with the murder. Magistrate Ned Tupper denied bond on those charges Aug. 1.

Glass did not appear at Wednesday's hearing. His public defender, Arie Bax, said that after speaking with his client, he did not think it was appropriate for Glass to request bond now.

"I don't believe he would have received the bond," Bax said. "And to some degree, I didn't want to parade my client out to have his bond denied."

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said his office intended to request that bond be denied.

"My concern is ... to make sure he remains in the detention center, and that is what's going to happen," Stone said.

At the hearing, Bax also said he might still request bond for his client at another time.

Bax said he also is requesting a gag order and to limit media exposure to court proceedings and commentary from attorneys. He said he hopes this will minimize the impact on the community and prevent him from having to request a change of venue for the trial to another county.

"In Beaufort County, it is a decent-size-population county, but is not a city or urban area," Bax said. "So if you start having too many jurors tainted and saying they've read stories, commented on them, etc., these are reasons they may be disqualified from being a juror."

Judge Carmen Mullen said the request for a gag order could be heard after Bax files his motion, which he said he would do in 30 days.

Authorities say Lowther caught Glass burglarizing her business -- operated out of a house on Barefoot Alley -- and he hit her on the head with a metal object, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

She was found dead at the business by her daughter at about 8 a.m. July 31. Glass was identified as a suspect after a witness spotted him on May River Road at about the time of the killing, which occurred between 7 and 8 a.m., according to the Sheriff's Office.

Glass was arrested at the camper he was living in -- a camper Lowther and her husband, Barry, had loaned to him -- at the nearby Stoney Crest Plantation Campground soon after Lowther's body was discovered, sheriff's Capt. Bob Bromage has said. Deputies also recovered money and jewelry believed to be the Lowthers.

Glass' girlfriend, Rebecca Joe Pope, 43, also was arrested July 31 on an unrelated misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession, after officers searching the camper Glass and Pope shared discovered the drug.

Stone said his office has filed no additional charges against Pope, but she is still under investigation. She was released from the detention center Aug. 2.

Bromage has said the preliminary autopsy results indicate Lowther was killed by blunt-force trauma and that a "sharp-force injury" contributed to her death. Investigators believe a nail remover and a folding knife were likely the weapons used in the assault.

Glass and Pope checked into the campground June 16, according to Bill Ronquest Jr., manager of the campground. He has said the couple arrived without money or identification, claiming their car had been broken into on Hilton Head Island and their wallets stolen.

About 10 days before her murder, the Lowthers started helping the couple by providing the camper, purchasing groceries for them and giving them some money, according to Ronquest.

Barry Lowther also gave Glass work at his business, Collins Septic Tank Service, which he ran with his wife.

Several relatives and friends were at the hearing Wednesday. Longtime family friend Katherine Bishop said the family and community are trying to focus on Melanie Lowther and remember her spirit and good deeds.

"The family is going through a lot right now," Bishop said. "She was just an awesome and special person, and for him to do what he did to someone who was such a good person, we don't want to focus on him."

Stone said the preliminary hearings for the case will begin Friday in the Beaufort County Courthouse, and it is scheduled to go before a grand jury Sept. 26.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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