Hollywood resident Jerry Lee Manigault has been charged with murder and criminal sexual conduct in the May 12 death of 70-year-old Bluffton resident Polly Ann Mitchell, the Bluffton Police Department announced Monday.
Manigault, 50, already was being held without bond in Charleston County on murder, kidnapping and first-degree burglary charges, stemming from the death of Julia Mudgett, 77, who lived near Manigault in a mobile home in Hollywood, a community south of Charleston.
Manigault, a convicted sex offender, is accused of murdering Mitchell at her home at 168 Buck Island Road in Bluffton after sexually assaulting her, according to a Bluffton Police Department news release. He also has been charged with burglary and grand larceny in connection with the incident. Manigault is accused of stealing $2,000 worth of property from Mitchell's home.
Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said he plans to meet Tuesday with Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson to coordinate Manigault's prosecution. The Ninth Circuit includes Charleston and Berkeley counties.
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Manigault will be tried in Charleston County for murder, kidnapping and first-degree burglary in Mudgett's death and in Beaufort County for murder in Mitchell's death.
Mudgett's car was reported missing from her Hollywood home on May 6, and her 2002 Hyundai Elantra was found underwater near a boat landing on Tuten Landing Road in Ridgeland on May 12.
Several witnesses told police they saw Manigault near Mitchell's home the morning of May 12, and Mudgett's vehicle was spotted on Buck Island Road just before Mitchell's death, according to police.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office charged Manigault with Mudgett's death May 16, the day her body was found in the woods about a half-mile from her home. She had disappeared 10 days earlier.
Since then, Manigault has been a suspect in Mitchell's death, but the Bluffton Police Department waited for results of evidence tests conducted by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division before filing charges.
The news release did not specify what evidence linked Manigault to the homicide, and the Bluffton Police Department declined to comment.
Sharon Brown, a relative of Mitchell, said the charge brings some relief.
"At least we know that the person who did this awful crime to her is behind bars," Brown, 55, said. "It's a joyous occasion that he's been charged in this horrible, horrible act. I will be even more happy when he's convicted."
Because of Mitchell's death, Brown spearheaded the formation of a Buck Island Road neighborhood watch, which held its first committee meeting June 7.
About 30 residents attended, and four Bluffton Police officers answered questions and offered instructions. Brown said the next meeting will be held at 4 p.m. June 28 at 150 Buck Island Road.
Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.
- Buck Island Road residents hold first neighborhood watch meeting, June 7, 2014
- Manigault identified as suspect in death of Bluffton's Mitchell, June 3, 2014
- Investigation into Bluffton woman's death continues, May 19, 2014
- Vigil honors Polly Ann Mitchell, May 15, 2014