It wasn't long after tow-truck driver Preston Oates was released on bond in August 2011 that the family of the man he was charged with killing began hearing reports he had been sighted.
"We had people approach us and say, 'We saw Preston Oates in Walmart.'
'We saw Preston Oates in the Hilton Head Panera.'
'We saw Preston Oates in Hardeeville,'" said Nelson Olivera, the brother of 34-year-old Carlos Olivera, who was killed on Christmas Eve 2010 after a parking dispute with Oates.
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Nelson Olivera said he didn't believe the rumors at first. As the stories continued, though, he decided to play it safe, even buying a dog to protect his home.
Now, the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office believes it has proof, uncovered during an unrelated investigation by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, that Oates has been out and about, in violation of his $200,000 bond.
On Monday, Solicitor Duffie Stone will present that evidence to Judge John Hayes in the Beaufort County Courthouse as he argues for the bond to be revoked and for Oates to await his manslaughter trial behind bars.
Stone is expected to cite phone records that were originally part of an investigation into whether Oates created a fake profile for Sheriff P.J. Tanner on a dating website. Most of the activity on the Match.com profile set up in Tanner's name was traced to the computer in the home of Oates' father, Paul, where Preston Oates is supposed to be confined, under house arrest.
But other entries were made from various wireless locations, including in North Carolina, the Sheriff's Office says. That discovery took the investigation in a new direction, and Oates' phone records were searched, Tanner said.
"(We shared) what we had recovered with the Solicitor's Office, and the solicitor compared those with the court's order as to Preston Oates," Tanner said.
Oates is supposed to be confined to his father's house in another county -- the location has not been publicly disclosed -- except to see his lawyers or for medical emergencies.
He must check in weekly with his bail-bonding company. Records of his check-in calls indicate Oates called from locations such as Chapin, Saluda, Waterloo, Hardeeville and Hilton Head Island. Times and dates recorded in Oates' outgoing calls and the call-in sheet also did not match, the investigative report states.
When detectives interviewed Oates, he denied having a cellphone and said he used relatives' numbers. Investigator Brian Baird then received a call from Oates' defense attorney Don Colongeli asking why lawyers had not been consulted before the interview, the report states.
Colongeli has released a statement that said it is "extremely troubling" that he was not notified of the investigation. He also noted Stone's statement in an interview with The Island Packet that the fake dating profile could not lead to charges because there are no criminal statutes for libel or slander.
"Yet, (the Sheriff's Office) with the knowledge and assistance of the Solicitor's Office ... engaged in a complex and costly multi-jurisdictional criminal investigation in hopes of obtaining a search warrant pertaining to something totally other than that which they were primarily investigating," the statement said.
Colongeli declined further comment.
Tanner said investigators did not know the search for the creator of the fake dating profile would lead to Oates. He also said the Sheriff's Office does not typically investigate bond violations, but it notifies the Solicitor's Office when it finds them.
Attempts Thursday to reach Stone were unsuccessful. In previous interviews, Stone has said "all concerns will be addressed in court."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.