Crime & Public Safety

Beaufort Co. man sentenced in 2016 death of woman whose home was set on fire

Watch defendant’s reaction whose touch DNA helped convict him in 2016 Beaufort murder

The murder trial of Burton resident Brian David Walls vs the state of South Carolina in the murder of his 56 year old neighbor Teresa Seigler.
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The murder trial of Burton resident Brian David Walls vs the state of South Carolina in the murder of his 56 year old neighbor Teresa Seigler.

A Beaufort County jury found Brian Walls of Burton guilty of murder Thursday afternoon and sentenced him to 40 years in the Dec. 7, 2016, death of his 56-year-old neighbor who was beaten, wrapped in blankets, and bound with duct tape, before having her home set on fire.

Teresa Seigler died a horrific death that nobody should ever have to endure,” 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office prosecutor Hunter Swanson said in closing arguments Wednesday. “She was a woman killed in her own bed by people she trusted ... How does it get worse than that?”

Seigler lived in a trailer home at Bon Aire Estates in Burton.

Though she was not a person of means, she helped her neighbors when they couldn’t afford groceries or pay their bills, according to a Thursday news release from the Solicitor’s Office.

At the time of her death, Seigler, who had chronic pain, had just received her monthly disability check and filled her prescriptions, the release said.

Walls knew this, Swanson said.

“He knew when to pounce.”

The trial lasted four days. The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for almost two hours Wednesday before requesting to rehear testimony from four witnesses. After re-listening to more than two hours of testimony Thursday morning, the jury deliberated for less than half an hour before reaching a verdict.

Teresa Seigler, 56, died shortly after a fire in her Falls Road home in Burton on the morning of Dec. 7, 2016. Three people were charged with murder in connection with Seigler's death. Note: This video was updated Feb. 28, 2017, to correct the loc

Seigler — who was wrapped in a green blanket and purple bed sheet then bound with silver duct tape — died before the fire “at the hands of others,” Swanson said.

A doctor testified that Seigler had signs of blunt force trauma, a broken rib, multiple contusions and bruising, according to Swanson.

After killing Seigler, Walls — who had previously lived with her — fled the area in a car with Courtney Brock and John Priester. Walls’ two sons, who were juveniles at the time, set Seigler’s trailer home on Falls Road on fire, Swanson told the jury.

Forensic evidence connected Walls, Brock, and Priester to the scene, according to previous reporting.

Brock, Priester, and Walls’ sons are awaiting trial on charges related to Seigler’s death and burning of her home, according to Jeff Kidd, spokesperson for the Solicitor’s Office.

Prior to their 2016 and 2017 arrests, Walls and Priester all had lengthy criminal records in Beaufort County.

Beaufort County chief public defender Trasi Campbell told the jury that Walls knew Seigler well, and just months before her death “made sure (she) was safe” during Hurricane Matthew.

“Brian Walls is an innocent man,” Campbell said in her closing arguments.

Seigler’s daughter, Hannah, who sat in the second row of the courtroom behind the prosecutor’s side, shook her head “No,” both emotionally and emphatically at the notion that Walls had cared for her mother.

A victim’s advocate silently comforted Hannah, patting her on the shoulder from the next row.

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Brian Walls of Burton appears in a mugshot from his Dec. 9, 2016, arrest on charges of kidnapping and rape in the Dec. 6, 2016, sexual assault of Daryan Payne in Beaufort. Walls was later served with a warrant for the Dec. 7, 2016, murder of Teresa Seigler of Burton. He was on trial for first-degree murder this week at the Beaufort County Courthouse. Beaufort County Detention Center

When Walls, now 38, was charged with Seigler’s murder in February 2017, he was already incarcerated on kidnapping and rape charges in the Dec. 6, 2016, sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman at a Beaufort motel.

He was denied bail and has been held at the county detention center since Dec. 9, 2016.

In the assault case, Walls is accused of forcing Daryan Payne of Beaufort to withdraw money from an ATM before raping her in the bathroom of the Howard Johnson hotel on Boundary Street, according to previous reporting.

Payne later escaped from Walls and ran into the marsh behind the motel, where she called 911.

Walls has not yet been tried in the sexual assault case, according to Beaufort County court documents.

Payne and her mother attended Walls’ murder trial this week.

On Wednesday, Swanson recounted testimony that painted Walls as an avid drug user.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures and in December of 2016 Brian Walls was a desperate man,” she said during the trial.

One witness said Walls was “very unpredictable” when he was using.

In her closing arguments, Swanson listed the state’s evidence against Walls — including his DNA on the duct tape used to bound Seigler, text messages and phone conversations. Walls, she said, was found in Chesterfield County shortly after Seigler’s death and in a car full of Seigler’s belongings, including her purse, prescriptions, and debit card.

“(Multiple) factors led to the biggest drug-induced bender that Brian Walls has ever been on and it ends in tragedy for Teresa Seigler,” Swanson said.

Seigler was basically confined to her home, suffering from previous surgeries and medical conditions, and had an “open-door policy,” Swanson said.

“Those factors made her a sitting duck,” she said.

Judge G. Thomas Cooper Jr. sentenced Walls to 40 years in prison, saying “It’s sort of an inhumane thing that I listened to during this course of the trial. ... I have a responsibility to this county and this state and I intend to fulfill that responsibility.”

Although Walls declined to testify during the trial, he stood up and spoke before the sentencing for more than 10 minutes.

He said he understands why the jury found him guilty, but repeated that he was innocent multiple times contesting a lot of the evidence and testimony that was given.

“I know in my heart I didn’t kill Ms. Resa,” he said, referring to Seigler. “I just wanted that to be heard.”

He said he is not a perfect person, but is a Bible-studier, and had an “ongoing friendship” with Seigler. He said he would not have killed her.

Lori Latham, a longtime friend of Seigler, addressed the court as well.

“She had a heart of gold,” Latham said. “She took care of people and we took care of her. ... It breaks all of our hearts that somebody — a monster — could do this to somebody that would help him ... She will be missed greatly.”

Seigler’s daughter and son did not stand and talk, but Hannah did look at the jury at one point and say, “Thank you so much,” as tears filled her eyes.

After Walls was sentenced and taken out of the courtroom, friends and family of Seigler embraced each other and cried tears of relief and joy.

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Lana Ferguson has covered news of all sorts for The Island Packet & Beaufort Gazette since June 2018. Before coming to the Lowcountry, she worked for publications in her home state of Virginia and graduated from the University of Mississippi, where she was editor of the college’s daily newspaper.
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