Crime & Public Safety

Neighbors afraid after 70-year-old Beaufort woman found brutally killed in her home

Ed Murray wants to see more of a police presence on his street after a 70-year-old woman was found brutally killed only a few houses away.

“There are too many shady people around,” Murray said Wednesday. “Police need to look into them.”

Theresa Coker, 70, was found dead Oct. 9 in her home on Polk Street in Beaufort by employees of her rental company.

Autopsy results, released by the Beaufort Police Department on Wednesday, determined she died from blunt force trauma and strangulation.

Her vehicle was found in the Seabrook area a day after her body was discovered.

“Forensic evidence from the scene is being processed, and potential witnesses continue to be interviewed,” according to a news release from police.

Coker lived in the house for about a month, neighbors say. She often waved to them but kept to herself.

Debbie Hill has lived across from the house where Coker was killed for about three years. Now, she thinks about the homicide every time she walks outside.

“When I first heard about it, I thought about moving,” Hill said.

Samantha Mizell, the mother of a small child, has lived behind Coker’s house for about a year.

“I’m scared, honestly,” Mizell said. “I haven’t been able to get sleep since. I’ve never had something this close to home happen like this.”

Police have released little information about the circumstances surrounding Coker’s death, making it difficult for neighbors to know what to look out for or how to protect themselves, Mizell said.

Among the questions that remain unanswered: Was Coker randomly targeted? Or does it appear she knew her attacker? Was her home broken into? Was anything stolen from her home? When do detectives believe she was killed?

Are police patrolling the neighborhood more since the homicide?

The Beaufort Police Department did not respond Wednesday to interview requests by the The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet.

Mizell said she’s afraid that whoever killed Coker could have chosen her house instead. She noted that the street is better lit in front of Coker’s home.

Coker’s home, 2801 Polk St., sits at the corner of Polk and Hogarth streets. One side of Polk street is lined with small single-family homes, and the other side with businesses such as Walgreens, Chick-fil-A and Palmetto State Back.

The house where Coker lived in sits directly behind a strip mall.

Murray said the proximity of the businesses sometimes leads to people loitering in the area. He says there was a guy standing across the street from Croker’s house the night before her body was found.

Police used to patrol the street often, Murray said. He said they stopped patrolling as often after street lights were installed in recent years.

“This should have never happened,” Murray said.

Coker is the 11th homicide in Beaufort County for 2019. It is the first homicide this year in the Beaufort Police Department’s jurisdiction.

The city of Beaufort had one homicide last year.

On Sep. 8, 2018, Stephon Chaplin was shot and killed at Spanish Trace Apartments. Jibri McNair was charged with murder in the days following the crime. His case is pending.

Anyone with information about Coker’s homicide should contact Beaufort Police Department investigator Waddell at 843-322-7974 or the anonymous tip line at 843-322-7938.

Teresa Moss is a crime and public safety reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She has worked as a journalist for 16-years for newspapers in Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas.