Beaufort News

Grand jury indicts on charges of attempted escape, attempted murder and manslaughter

Three Beaufort County men were indicted by a grand jury Thursday on felony charges ranging from attempted murder to voluntary manslaughter, according to the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office.


Preston Oates, a tow-truck driver jailed after a fatal Christmas eve shooting in Bluffton, was indicted on charges of attempted escape after a failed jailbreak March 20, according to Solicitor's Office spokesman Daniel Brownstein.

Oates spent about 10 days cutting a 4- to 5-inch hole in the bottom half of the cell's 3-by-3-foot window, using the metal faceplate from the cell's light switch, according to arrest warrants.

The grand jury also indicted Oates on a charge of willful injury to a courthouse or jail, a change from a previous charge of malicious injury to property, Brownstein said. If convicted, Oates faces up to 15 years in prison for trying to escape and up to three years in prison for damaging his cell.

A 60-day disciplinary action at the county Detention Center will begin as soon as Oates is released from suicide watch, where he has remained since making a comment to an officer about harming himself, according to jail director Phil Foot.


Richard "Dick" Santee, 68, was indicted on an attempted-murder charge in connection with a Thanksgiving eve argument at his Brays Island home, in which his nephew was killed, according to Brownstein.

Authorities say Santee shot his nephew, James Piotrowski, 42, of Stuart, Fla., multiple times. A security guard who responded to the shooting fired the shots that killed Piotrowski.

Santee was released from jail after he posted bond and gave up his passport and several guns. If convicted of the attempted-murder charge, he faces a minimum of two years and a maximum of 30 years in prison.


William Shane Moreland, 31, of Bluffton was indicted on a manslaughter charge stemming from the Nov. 19 shooting of Thomas L. Mullins Jr. at the Palmetto Pointe Townes neighborhood.

According to court records, Mullins walked up to Moreland's front door and knocked at about 9 p.m. that night after an ongoing dispute involving Moreland, his girlfriend and Mullins. Moreland came outside through the home's garage and allegedly shot Mullins once, killing him.

Moreland was released from jail Nov. 30 after posting bond. If convicted, he faces a minimum of two years and a maximum of 30 years in prison.

Mullin's mother, Joan, also of Bluffton, said she had mixed feelings about the indictment.

"I hope and pray Shane will receive the punishment due at the trial for the senseless murder of my son," she wrote in an email.