The tow truck operator charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a Bluffton man during a Christmas Eve parking dispute had bond set at $200,000 on Thursday.
Preston Oates, 27, of Bluffton first must undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is a danger to himself or others, Judge Thomas Cooper ruled during the bond hearing.
That bond must consist of either $200,000 cash or of property worth that amount, according to Sean Thornton, 14th Judicial Circuit deputy solicitor.
Oates, then a co-owner of Pro Tow, has been in the Beaufort County Detention Center since Dec. 27, three days after the shooting death of Carlos Alberto Olivera, 34.
Oates was denied bond on the manslaughter charge Jan. 28.
On March 20, he was charged with attempted escape and malicious injury to a jail. Police say he used a light switch metal face plate to cut a 4- to 5-inch slice in the bottom of his cell's Plexiglas window. A trial date on those charges has not been set.
Despite the previous bond denial and alleged escape attempt, Cooper said Thursday that those charged with a non-capital offense have a right to post bail.
"The setting of bond is one of the least understood aspects of the judicial system," he said. "People are seeking justice for the victim, but I also have to take into account what the law demands."
If the examination finds Oates is not a threat, bond terms would require that he be under house arrest and accompanied by a family member at an unidentified location. That location already has been chosen by his family and his lawyers. The site is outside Beaufort County but inside South Carolina. Both the solicitor's and Beaufort County Sheriff's offices will know the location, but it will not be made public.
A Beaufort County Solicitor's Office employee will telephone once a week to verify Oates is at the site, according to Sheriff P.J. Tanner.
Oates will not be required to wear an electronic tether, Jared Newman, one of his attorneys, said.
Oates would not be allowed to leave the property unless he has a court appearance, an appointment with his lawyer or an emergency medical situation, Cooper said.
He also would be ordered to stay away from the Olivera family.
Oates' psychiatric evaluation is scheduled for Aug. 12.
During the hearing, Deputy Solicitor Thornton said he had no doubt Oates was a danger to the community and a flight risk, based on his attempted escape.
"He's been denied and re-denied bond," Thornton told the judge. "The fact is, even when he's on lockdown, he still can't behave."
Olivera's widow, Dhayam, and his brother, Nelson, also asked Cooper to deny bond.
"I see the face of this man who killed my husband in front of my kids ..." Dhayam Olivera told the judge. "He's sick, he makes me so sick. My kids wake up every morning crying because they have dreams about what happened."
Olivera's brother said the family understood the judicial system, but were unhappy with the bond decision.
"We know he's a violent person," Nelson Olivera said. "We just want justice."
Earlier Thursday, Newman and Don Colongeli, Oates' attorneys, argued their client acted in self-defense after Carlos Olivera threatened him and brandished a gun.
Carlos Olivera was shot six times -- four times in the back, once in the arm and once in the head -- according to the Solicitor's Office. The gun he was carrying was found 18 feet from his body, investigators have said. Olivera had a valid concealed weapons permit.
Nelson Olivera, a witness to the incident, told investigators his brother had at one point removed the gun tucked in his waistband but that he never pointed it at Oates.
Colongeli said during the hearing that Nelson Olivera's story has changed at least three times since the incident and contains "glaring inconsistencies."
The defense also disputed the escape charge, saying Oates merely scratched his cell's window.
After the hearing, those attorneys said they are not disclosing Oates' possible location not because they were afraid for his safety, but because they wanted to reassure both families.
"We want to allay fears on both sides of the fence," Newman said.
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