A man accused of murdering a Pritchardville woman last month admitted during an investigation that he killed her, a sheriff's detective testified Friday.
Walter William Glass, 41, has been charged with the July 31 killing of Melanie Lowther, and on Friday, a judge ordered his case to go before a grand jury.
During the Friday morning hearing, Cpl. D. Nelson of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said Lowther caught Glass stealing rolls of coins from Collins Septic Tank Service, a business she owned with her husband, Barry, that was operated out of a house on Barefoot Alley.
Glass then struck Melanie Lowther, 60, on the head with a nail remover. She suffered repeated blows to the head and was stabbed twice on her right side, Nelson said. Autopsy results indicate Lowther was killed by blunt-force trauma, and a "sharp-force injury" contributed to her death.
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Nelson said Glass was identified as a suspect because Barry Lowther had seen Glass riding a bike toward the business shortly before the murder.
The Lowthers' daughter found her dead at about 8 a.m. July 31.
Deputies surrounded the camper where Glass was living -- a camper the Lowthers had loaned him -- at the nearby Stoney Crest Plantation Campground.
The Lowthers had helped Glass and his girlfriend, Rebecca Joe Pope, by purchasing groceries, providing the camper and giving them money.
When Glass and Pope emerged, Glass had a backpack that contained bloody clothing, Nelson said. Deputies also found a pocket knife, more than $1,000 in cash, and a gold ring that Barry Lowther had custom-made for his wife.
Glass was arrested at the camper, Nelson said.
Pope, 43, also was arrested on an unrelated misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession. Stone has said his office has filed no additional charges against her.
Pope was released from the county jail Aug. 2.
She told officers that when Glass returned that morning, he told her that he had killed someone, Nelson testified.
After his arrest, Glass was cooperative, according to Nelson, who said he walked investigators through the morning's events and showed them where he had put the murder weapon and Melanie Lowther's phone.
Magistrate Mark Fitzgibbons ruled Friday there was probable cause for the charges against Glass, so the case will go to a grand jury.
Solicitor Duffie Stone said he likely would take the case to the grand jury Sept. 26. Eighteen Beaufort County residents would then decide if there is enough evidence for Glass to be tried.
On Wednesday, Glass waived his right to bond on the murder charge. He also faces armed robbery and burglary charges in connection with the case. He was denied bond Aug. 1 on those charges. He remains in the Beaufort County Detention Center.
At Wednesday's bond hearing, Glass' public defender, Arie Bax, said he is requesting a gag order to limit media exposure to court proceedings and commentary from attorneys. He hopes that will prevent him from having to request a change of venue to find jurors who don't already know a lot about the case.
Attempts to reach Bax after Friday's hearing were unsuccessful.
Stone said he doubts a trial would start before next year.
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.