Judge denies request to drop charges against Manigault in Hollywood murder case

rlurye@islandpacket.comJuly 1, 2014 

A man charged with the murder of two elderly women, one of them from Bluffton, remained in a Charleston jail Tuesday after a judge denied his lawyer's attempt to dismiss one of the cases.

Public defender Ashley Pennington argued there was not enough evidence to prove Jerry Manigault killed 77-year-old Julia Ann Mudgett of Hollywood.

Charleston County Magistrate James Gosnell disagreed. Gosnell decided that testimony from a Charleston County Sheriff's Office deputy showed Manigault, 53, of Hollywood was probably involved in Mudgett's death, Pennington said Tuesday afternoon.

"It was really just an opportunity to hear testimony of one of the detectives and to do a cross-examination of the detective," Pennington said after the hearing.

Attempts to reach the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office, which is prosecuting the case, were unsuccessful.

Manigault is also charged with murder and criminal sexual conduct in the death of Polly Ann Mitchell, 70, of Buck Island Road in Bluffton. The charges were filed about a month after Mitchell's death May 12.

Manigault will appear for the first time in a Beaufort County next week, likely Monday afternoon, for a bond hearing, according to 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone.

Both cases will move forward independently, Stone said.

Manigault is accused of breaking into Mudgett's Hollywood home in early May, killing her and stealing her Hyundai Elantra, which was found submerged near a Ridgeland boat landing.

At Manigault's preliminary hearing Tuesday, prosecutors said he sold the car to a male relative and then told him to get rid of it before they got in trouble because it had been stolen in Georgetown.

Pennington argued his client could be charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, but that the state lacked proof he killed Mudgett.

Prosecutors pointed to other evidence, including a key to Mudgett's portable oxygen tanks found in Manigault's possession.

Pennington said he has been communicating with his client but has not decided what route they may take leading up to the trial.

"We're looking at all of our options," he said.

Christina Elmore of The (Charleston) Post & Courier contributed to this report. Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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