Police: Suspect in Hollywood disappearance will not talk about Bluffton homicide

rlurye@islandpacket.comMay 15, 2014 

A man in custody in Charleston has refused to talk with police about the death of a Bluffton woman or a missing Hollywood woman whose car was found in Ridgeland, according to Bluffton and Charleston County authorities.

Bluffton Police Department officers have tried to speak with Jerry Manigault of Hollywood about Polly Ann Mitchell, 70, who was found dead Monday shortly after 3 p.m. in her home on Buck Island Road in Bluffton, but he has not cooperated, Bluffton Capt. Joseph Manning said.

He also has not cooperated in the case of 77-year-old Hollywood resident Julia Mudgett, whose car was found underwater about 4:30 p.m. Monday near a boat landing at Tuten Landing Road, according to Maj. Eric Watson of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. Mudgett was reported missing May 6.

Manigault has not been charged in either case, authorities say. But Manning said investigators are "looking very hard" at Manigault in Mitchell's death, and Watson said he is a suspect in Mudgett's disappearance.

Manigault is in custody in the Charleston County jail following his arrest Monday in Bluffton by the U.S. Marshals Service on an outstanding warrant for failure to re-register as a sex offender, the same day Mitchell's body and Mudgett's car were found.

He also was charged with possession of cocaine, which was found on him when he was arrested in Bluffton, Watson said.

Manigault landed on the sex-offender registry following a 1997 kidnapping conviction in Charleston County, for which he was sentenced to time served plus five years' probation, according to court records. He has been convicted of numerous other charges in Charleston and Beaufort counties since 1991, including robbery, grand larceny, burglary, possession of cocaine and criminal domestic violence, according to court records.

He was charged with kidnapping a second time in Charleston County in 2010, as well as first-degree criminal sexual conduct, but prosecutors did not pursue the charges, records indicate.

Manigault was seen driving Mudgett's maroon 2002 Hyundai Elantra on Buck Island Road the morning Mitchell was killed, Manning said. Tips from several people who said they saw him driving the car in Bluffton led Charleston County detectives to look at Manigault as a possible suspect in the Mudgett disappearance, Watson said.

Bluffton police spent Thursday interviewing Manigault's relatives who live in the Simmonsville Road area, as well as Mitchell's neighbors on Buck Island Road. Many neighbors, including Mitchell, attended a Mother's Day cook-out over the weekend, relatives said Thursday night, but Manning said police are still trying to determine whether Manigault also attended.

"We're trying to get his timeline down," Manning said. "If he is our suspect, we're going to lock it down."

Bluffton officers are also awaiting results of tests on forensic evidence, and Charleston deputies have not finished analyzing Mudgett's car and home for evidence, according to Manning and Watson.

Investigators think Manigault knew Mudgett, but they are still trying to determine how well, Watson said. He lived about a quarter-mile from her home.

Since late last week, Charleston County authorities have declined to provide details about what happened at Mudgett's house and what they found there. Watson said Thursday that the disorganized scene led investigators to believe the perpetrator had not thought out the crime.

Watson and Manning withheld other details of their cases Thursday, including how Mitchell was killed, citing the ongoing investigations.

"Eventually, hopefully, as the evidence comes together, we'll have enough to pursue him," Watson said. "With these kinds of cases, we have to take time to cross our T's and dot our I's."

Andrew Knapp, staff writer with The (Charleston) Post & Courier contributed to this report.

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

Related content:

Police: Suspect in Hollywood disappearance being investigated for Bluffton homicide, May 15, 2014

Bluffton woman's death ruled homicide, May 13, 2014

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