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Top crime stories of 2009: Arrest of county clerk of court for embezzlement

Former Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith sits with her attorney during an arraignment hearing in a Lancaster County courtroom in August. She pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzlement and misconduct in office. Her bond was set at $25,000. At left is her attorney, Mike Macloskie.
Former Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith sits with her attorney during an arraignment hearing in a Lancaster County courtroom in August. She pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzlement and misconduct in office. Her bond was set at $25,000. At left is her attorney, Mike Macloskie.

Elected to three consecutive terms as Beaufort County clerk of court, Elizabeth Smith resigned July 30, just hours after being indicted on charges of embezzling public funds.

Smith's resignation and indictment was voted the top local law-enforcement story of 2009 in balloting by the newsroom staff of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.

Smith is accused of stealing $23,500 from two accounts in the clerk's office to pay for insurance premiums for relatives and to make payments on a home on PawleysIsland. She was charged with four counts of embezzlement and one count of misconduct in office. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

She will appear Jan. 25 in Beaufort County Court for a routine preliminary appearance.

Duffie Stone, solicitor for the 14th Circuit, said during Smith's arraignment in August that the investigation began after he received information she had allegedly funneled federal money set aside for child support enforcement into the Beaufort County Drug Court program.

The Drug Court was run by her husband, Manning Smith, who served as the program's judge and the president of the nonprofit corporation under which the court operated. Stone requested the help of federal investigators from the Department of Health and Human Services to determine whether Elizabeth Smith's actions were illegal. That investigation and the state's investigation into the clerk's finances continue.

Manning Smith was removed from the bench in August by S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal for undisclosed reasons. Manning Smith had held the position since2001. No charges have been filed against him.

Lady's Island resident Jeri Ann Roseneau was selected by Gov. Mark Sanford a week after Elizabeth Smith was indicted to serve the remainder of the clerk's term, which expires in 2012.

2. (TIE) BLUFFTON POLICE CHIEF DAVID McALLISTER KEEPS HIS JOB DESPITE COMPLAINTS FROM WITHIN HIS DEPARTMENT

Despite complaints of favoritism from within his department and a wrongful-termination lawsuit filed in November by a former lieutenant, Bluffton Police Chief David McAllister still has his job.

Town manager Anthony Barrett announced in October that McAllister, chief since 2006, would not be not be "terminated, demoted, suspended, disciplined or put on probation" as a result of complaints by his subordinates that dealt largely with "promotions, evaluations, disciplines and alleged favoritism."

A month later, former Lt. Katherine Sours filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the town, alleging she was laid off in June because McAllister "was afraid" she would report him for favoritism and lack of professionalism. Sours, 53, is seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial, according to the suit.

Sours also filed an age discrimination complaint with the S.C. Human Affairs Commission, in which she alleges McAllister "made comments about my age and how old I was on numerous occasions."

McAllister has denied Sours' allegations, saying he is "looking forward to my day in court."

2. (TIE) MISSING CHILD CASE IN CHIPLEY, FLA., RENEWS INTEREST IN 22-YEAR-OLD DISAPPEARANCE OF SHELL POINT'S PAUL BAKER.

One missing child was found, but questions about another disappearance 22 years ago resurfaced when 7-month-old Shannon Dedrick of Chipley, Fla., was discovered alive, hidden in a 2-by-3-foot cedar box under the bed of her baby-sitter.

That baby-sitter was Susan Baker, a suspect in the disappearance of her stepson, Paul, from the family's home near Beaufort in 1987. Baker served a short jail sentence in 1987 for abusing her stepdaughter, Nina Baker.

Two previous attempts to charge Baker and her husband, James Baker, in connection with Paul's disappearance were unsuccessful, and Beaufort County sheriff's investigators were sent to Florida to interview Baker.

That has not led to a break in Paul's disappearance, but Baker remains in custody, facing charges of child neglect and interference of child custody in connection with Dedrick's disappearance.

4. MOTHER AND SON MURDERED IN DALE; TODDLER INJURED

A 27-year-old Burton man is being held in the Beaufort County Detention Center after being charged with murdering his 34-year-old girlfriend, her 4-year-old son and wounding the 2-year-old son he and the woman shared.

Earnest Stewart Daise, 27, faces two counts of murder and assault with intent to kill in the Nov. 15 shooting deaths of Jeanine Mullen and Waltfredo-Davis Mullen at their home on Player Road. Daise is the father of 2-year-old Jeremiah Daise, who was injured but survived. Judge J. Earnest Kinard denied Daise bond during a December hearing.

Mullen was a single mother of four and worked as a kindergarten teaching assistant at Shanklin Elementary School. Her two other sons, ages 11 and 13, weren't home during the shooting.

Duffie Stone, 14th Circuit solicitor, said he has not yet determined whether he will seek the death penalty.

5. BLUFFTON WOMAN CONVICTED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT OF 13-YEAR-OLD BOY

A 42-year-old Bluffton woman and mother of two was sentenced by Beaufort County Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen to at least 51 months in prison for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy in August 2008 while her husband slept down the hall in their home.

Susan Tappeiner was convicted in October of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with the minor, whom Tappeiner was baby-sitting. The boy, now 15 and living in another state, told a Bluffton police officer at his school that he had been forced to have sex with her.

Tappeiner began her sentence Nov. 15 at the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution in Columbia, according to the S.C. Department of Corrections.

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