Prime suspect in year-old murder charged with shooting death

A man identified more than a year ago as a "person of interest" in the shooting death of a 52-year-old Hilton Head Island man has been charged with his murder, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said Friday.

Jerry Lamont Scantling, 28, has been in the county detention center on unrelated charges since days after Leonard Green's body was discovered May 23, 2010, near the Pinckney Island boat landing.

Scantling now also faces charges of armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

Scantling's charges mark the end of an investigation that spanned two states. Evidence collected at numerous crime scenes arrived Friday from the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and other labs, Sheriff P.J. Tanner said.

"We had the opportunity to take a pace that was good for the case because our prime suspect was in custody, and we knew he wouldn't go anywhere," Tanner said.

"We were comfortable in taking our time and evaluating everything very carefully because we knew he was responsible ... but the next step is proving."

Scantling was pulled over in Beaufort on May 26, 2010, in a car allegedly stolen from Savannah. He was charged on an outstanding warrant for a Burton home break-in earlier that month, in which a .45 caliber pistol was reported stolen. The gun had been discovered by someone at the Pinckney Island boat landing, where deputies found Green's body in a nearby wooded area, the release said.

In the days after Green's murder, deputies also found Green's cellphone in the lost-and-found of a Savannah Walmart, and phone records indicated Scantling had used it, Tanner said. Green's personal items also were collected from a trash bin at Hilton Head Gardens, the release said.

The following month, Green's pickup truck, missing since the night of his murder, was located in Savannah. The driver told police he had traded crack cocaine for the truck near where the vehicle Scantling drove on the night of his arrest was reported stolen, the release said.

The phone, the truck and the gun led to "a solid case," Tanner said.

When the investigative report is finished in the next few weeks, more details on Scantling's motive will be released, but "right now, it's obvious the motive, based on our charges, is armed robbery," Tanner said.

Green's sister, Joyce Young, said she was relieved and grateful charges had been filed. The family had grown impatient with the investigation, but Young said Friday she knows it took time to make the charges stick.

"I appreciate everything (the detectives) did," Young said. "I called the whole family to let them know, and everybody is saying, 'Thank you, Jesus.' "

Scantling's bond hearing likely will be in two weeks, Tanner said.