Roommate charged in Beaufort man's beating death

(Editor's note: An error in this story was corrected June 23, 2009.)

An argument between two roommates inside a Beaufort apartment turned deadly early Friday, resulting in the arrest of a 42-year-old Beaufort man on manslaughter charges.

Beaufort police were called to the Kings Ridge apartment complex on Paul Drivenear Mossy Oaks Roadat about 2:30 a.m., after relatives of James May, 42, found him dead in his apartment.

Investigators say May appeared to have been beaten and there were signs of struggle. Acting on numerous leads, officers went to the Econo Lodge on Boundary Street, where they found May's roommate, Thomas Ray Stone, 42, and arrested him on one count of voluntary manslaughter. The department did not elaborate on why they suspected Stone of the killing.

He is being held at the Beaufort County Detention Center awaiting a bond hearingMonday, according to the county's jail log.

Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said evidence suggests the roommates fought and thatMay was killed.

An autopsy was scheduled Friday at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

If convicted of voluntary manslaughter -- which the state defines as the unintentional killing of another person -- Stone would face up to 30 years in prison, according to state law.

May was a registered sex offender who was convictedin South Carolina in 2000 of committing a lewd act upon a child under 16, according to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division's online sex offender registry. The registry did not list the location of May's conviction, but he was never arrested on those charges in Beaufort County.

Clancy said investigators do not believe May's death was connected to that conviction.

"As far as we know, that is unrelated," he said.