A man who was to stand trial next week on charges including the sexual assault and murder of an elderly Bluffton woman was sentenced to four life sentences on Tuesday.
Jerry Lee Manigault of Hollywood, S.C., pleaded guilty Monday in Beaufort County to charges of murder, criminal sexual conduct and first-degree burglary related to the May 12, 2014, death of 70-year-old Bluffton resident Polly Ann Mitchell, according to a news release from the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
He also was charged in Charleston County in the murder of Julia Mudgett, 77, who lived near Manigault in Hollywood and was killed about six days before Mitchell, the release said.
Manigault entered a plea to accept four life-without-parole sentences for the murder and burglary charges associated with the women’s deaths, the release said. He also received 30 years for sexually assaulting Mitchell, and 15 years for the strong-armed robbery of Mudgett.
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“The defendant preyed on the most vulnerable — elderly women who were home alone,” Jennifer Kneece Shealy, managing assistant solicitor of the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, said in the release.
Manigault first stood trial in March on the charges. However, a mistrial was declared after evidence inadvertently presented by the prosecution was deemed inadmissible. Testimony from a law enforcement officer included a reference to a S.C. Department of Corrections ID card found on Manigault at the time of his 2014 arrest. Knowledge of Manigault’s criminal history might affect the jury’s decision, the judge ultimately decided.
Manigault’s South Carolina criminal record dates to at least 1993 and includes convictions for kidnapping, crack possession, criminal domestic violence, grand larceny, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and burglaries, according to the release.
He was being sought by law enforcement in Mudgett’s disappearance and for failure to register as a sex offender when he was arrested in Bluffton on May 12, 2014. He was carrying a backpack that belonged to Mitchell and wearing one of her rings.
Later, a family member found Mitchell dead in her Buck Island Road home. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a television power cord.
Traces of Manigault’s flesh were removed from beneath Mitchell’s fingernails. His clothes and the money he carried were stained with Mitchell’s blood.
After Mudgett’s body was discovered in a wooded area near her home, Manigault was charged in her slaying as well.
Lisa Wilson: 843-706-8103