Holiday 2010 shootings among notable Beaufort County cases that could head to trial

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 9, 2014 

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Several high-profile cases in Beaufort County could reach trial in 2014.

Those include the case of a Bluffton tow-truck driver accused of killing a man on Christmas Eve 2010 in a towing dispute, and a man charged with attempted murder in the death of his nephew during a family gathering on Thanksgiving 2010, 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office spokesman Daniel Brownstein said.

Here's a rundown of some of the cases awaiting trial in Beaufort County or involving Beaufort County residents:

TOWING DISPUTE

Preston Oates, charged with voluntary manslaughter in the 2010 Christmas Eve shooting of Bluffton resident Carlos Olivera, is expected to be tried in the first half of 2014, Brownstein said.

Oates' trial had been delayed while his attorneys asked that his manslaughter charges be dropped under the state's Castle Doctrine, which spares defendants from prosecution if they killed someone while defending themselves or others in their home, workplace or vehicle.

A judge initially denied that request, but Oates' attorneys appealed that ruling. The appeal was dismissed in August by the S.C. Court of Appeals after the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that such appeals should wait until after trial.

According to Sheriff's Office reports, Oates shot Olivera six times following an argument that broke out as Oates tried to place a wheel boot on Olivera's van. Both men were armed, but Olivera never fired his weapon, the reports said.

THANKSGIVING DEATH

Richard Santee is expected to stand trial in the first six months of 2014 for attempted murder in the death of his 42-year-old nephew, James Piotrowski, on Brays Island, Brownstein said.

According to Beaufort County Sheriff's Office reports, Santee, 72, shot Piotrowski three times after an argument around midnight Thanksgiving Day 2010 in Santee's home. Piotrowski was also shot by a Brays Island security guard after he witnessed a wounded Piotrowski shoot Santee. Santee was charged the following March with attempted murder. The guard was not charged.

Piotrowski's widow, Tracey, filed suit against Santee and the Brays Island community in June 2013. The lawsuit was sent to alternative dispute resolution Jan. 10, according to court records. Santee has since moved with his wife to North Carolina.

KHALIL SINGLETON'S KILLING

The three men charged in the September 2012 death of Khalil Singleton, 8, on Hilton Head Island will all be tried in the first half of 2014, Brownstein said.

Singleton was playing outside his grandmother's Hilton Head home when he was killed by a bullet fired during a nearby gun battle, according to Sheriff's Office reports.

Reports say the bullet was fired by Beaufort resident Tyrone Robinson, 38, who exchanged gunfire with two men in a feud over drugs. Robinson and the other men -- 37-year-old Aaron Young Sr. and his 20-year-old son, Aaron Young Jr. -- were charged in Singleton's death. All three have been in the Beaufort County Detention Center since the shooting.

FIRETRUCK THEFT

No trial date has been set for Kalvin Hunt, Brownstein said, nearly two years after he stole a firetruck from outside Naval Hospital Beaufort.

Hunt, 27, of Sumter was charged with murder, grand larceny, seven counts of hit and run with injuries, two counts of resisting arrest, and first-degree assault and battery in the Feb. 24, 2012, incident. He was a Marine at the time.

Hunt fled the hospital and stole a Port Royal firetruck parked nearby, according to police reports. He drove the truck down Ribaut Road, crashing into six cars and killing 28-year-old Justin Miller, who was walking along the road, according to police.

Hunt's attorney, Cory Fleming, said the case had been delayed because medical records needed to be obtained and other medical issues.

Hunt is in the Beaufort County Detention Center, denied bond on a murder charge.

WEAPONS AT SCHOOL

Austen Almeida, charged after bringing a loaded handgun and knives to Bluffton High School in May, is also expected to reach trial in the first half of 2014, Brownstein said.

Almeida, 18, brought a loaded Glock 22 handgun, knives, gasoline, lighter fluid and a lighter to school, according to reports from the Bluffton Police Department.

Almeida is still in the Beaufort County Detention Center, denied bond after a hearing the day after he was arrested. He is charged with possession of a weapon on school property, unlawfully carrying a firearm, possession of a destructive device, and disrupting school.

PRITCHARDVILLE MURDER

Brownstein did not have information on whether Walter Glass, the man charged with the murder of Pritchardville resident Melanie Lowther, would reach trial in 2014.

Glass, 41, was charged with murder, second-degree burglary and armed robbery hours after Lowther's body was discovered. According to Sheriff's Office reports, Glass struck Lowther, 60, over the head with a nail remover after she found him burglarizing her Barefoot Alley home. Glass was arrested in a camper that Lowther and her husband had loaned him to live in.

Glass has been in the Beaufort County Detention Center since his arrest and was denied bond.

ALICE BOLAND

No trials have been scheduled in state and federal cases involving Lady's Island resident Alice Boland, who was arrested last year outside a Charleston private school, 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office spokeswoman Naomi Nation said.

Boland, 29, pointed a gun at two Ashley Hall school officials Feb. 4, 2013, and repeatedly pulled the trigger, Charleston police said. The gun did not fire because there was no bullet in the chamber.

Boland was charged in state court with attempted murder, two counts of pointing a firearm, unlawful carrying of a firearm, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. She was also charged in federal court with giving a false statement to purchase a firearm, possession of a firearm in a school zone, and attempted discharge of a firearm in a school zone. Her federal case has been sealed.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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