Beaufort News

Dead man found in burning car; authorities suspect link to fatal shooting

Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigators are awaiting autopsy results to help identify the badly scorched body of a man found in a burning car late Thursday on St. Helena Island.

The death was likely the second homicide on the rural sea island in as many days, and authorities believe the two cases may be linked.

Deputies were called at about 11:30 p.m. after reports of a white Buick Regal engulfed in flames off Folly Road, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh.

Inside the vehicle was the burned body of a man who also appeared to have been shot, McIntosh said.

The body was sent to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston to determine identity and cause of death, according to the Sheriff's Office.

McIntosh declined to say where the man was shot.

"We have to wait until the autopsy gets back to tell us whether that is a gunshot wound or something else," she said.

The Sheriff's Office has not identified a motive or suspect, McIntosh said, but there was a "high probability" Thursday's killing was connected to the fatal shooting Wednesday night of Julius Edward Chaplin.

Chaplin, 44, was found dead in his driveway after being shot twice in the head, according to a Sheriff's Office report. No motive or suspects have been found in Chaplin's death either, authorities have said.

McIntosh declined to say why investigators believe the deaths are linked.

"I really can't say too much until we get the autopsy results back to confirm the identity of the second victim," McIntosh said. "Any connections that we make between the two crimes will be based on known associations between the two men."

McIntosh added that investigators believe they know the identity of the second victim but must await autopsy results to confirm their suspicions.

The suspected victim and Chaplin are both "well-known" by area law enforcement, she said.

Chaplin had been arrested 15 times since 1991, most recently in November 2009, according to county records.

Investigators are expected to receive the autopsy results from MUSC forensic pathologists by early next week, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at

Related content