The story starts below the ad.
Jan. 5, 1980
Old Salem Road
Just outside of Beaufort
Susan looked back as she ran.
Is he following me?
She started to pray.
Please, God, let me get help in time. Please.
She looked behind her again and again.
Is he coming for me?
Is he there?
Terror launched her into the same abyss from which the man had emerged only minutes earlier; determination propelled her toward asylum.
She ran faster than she had ever done before.
Along the way, her eyes adjusted to the monochromatic night around her — a black so flat and proximate that, in those days, people joked how they couldn’t see their hands in front of their own faces.
It was the exact level of pitch that monsters prefer the darkness to be.
Susan saw headlights ahead.
Oh my God.
She threw herself into the gully and flattened her body against the earth.
Oh my God.
Oh my God.
She was certain it was him. She prayed it wasn’t.
The vehicle drew near.
It did not stop.
She lifted her head and watched till it was out of vision.
Then she got up and sprinted down that dirt road.
If I can just get to them, they’ll fix this.
They’ll know what to do.
They’ll make all of this better.
Please, Lord, let me get to them.
Clutching the straps of her purse in one hand, with her lungs tasked and heaving, with evidence of what the man had done still on her, still in her, she calmed only slightly at the sight of streetlights, the feel of pavement and the familiarity of the Salem Point houses ahead.
Keep going, she told herself. Keep running.
Get to them.
She traveled up Salem Drive West.
She took a left at Plantation Drive.
She cut through the front lawn of the brick rancher.
Finally, 15-year-old Susan Weed, out of breath and hysterical, had made it.
She burst through the door and across the threshold to safety.
She was with her parents now.
She was alive.
But she was far from OK.
Crying and screaming, she got out the words.
“A man shot David!”
The boy who smiled
David Krulewicz smiled.
He was always smiling.
He smiled so much, in fact, his step-grandmother, Evelyn McKenzie, was convinced he’d choose to do that over eating if he were allowed to do only one of the two.
His mother, having had extensive experience with his appetite, knew better.
“Well, I think he’d rather eat,” Betty McKenzie told The Beaufort Gazette on Jan. 7, 1980. “He could eat. You know how boys are.”
David lived on Coosaw Island and had turned 18 three weeks earlier.
The year before, he had dropped out of Beaufort High School so he could work full-time.
He had one job for the winter, at Rutland Heating and Air on Lady’s Island, and one for the summer, as a shrimper on Port Royal Sound. He hoped to one day buy a shrimp boat or maybe even become a park ranger.
He had his own van, a silver 1976 Dodge with carpeted walls and a pull-out couch in back.
And he had great friends — Carl Rutland, Jerry Gault and Robert Bush to name a few — guys he went fishing with off the Coosaw Island and Sams Point bridges and hunted with after school, guys he drove around with — often way too fast down the then-empty roads of Lady’s Island — guys he rode fifth-hand bicycles with, fixed up cars with and went to Beaufort Academy basketball games with, guys he could cut up with and play pranks on, guys he partied with in trailers and at bonfires.
Most of all, though, David had Susan.
“That girl ...,” David’s stepfather, Hank McKenzie, said to a Gazette reporter at the time, “she was it. He thought the world of her.”
The boy who liked to smile had found a girlfriend who was good at eliciting that response.
Susan, a sophomore at Beaufort Academy, was fun, gutsy and sweet without any of the sugar-coating.
She drew laughter from friends with her truthful observations and her matter-of-fact opinions about people and situations — all punctuated by a speedy, tumbling curlicue of a Southern accent.
She was charming, pretty and wild in the way of a country song — the way kids could be back then in towns like Beaufort, where nothing all that exciting ever happened.
And Susan loved David.
He was happy and handsome and, a bonus, tall enough for the 5-foot, 9-inch girl to stand up straight next to in photographs and to peer up at between kisses.
She would’ve spent every second of the day with him if she could have.
That Christmas, the two had exchanged engraved silver bracelets.
Hers was dangly and feminine; his was bigger and thick like a watchband with an elegant cursive “I love you. Susan” etched on the inside.
In two weeks, Susan would be washing David’s blood off her bracelet.
And David would be buried in his.
Jan. 5, 1980
Around 7:30 p.m.
Just outside Beaufort
David drove across town to pick up his girlfriend for their Saturday night date.
Just as he had done many times before, he sat for a few minutes and chatted with Susan and her parents — Marie and Johnny Weed — before heading out.
David felt welcomed in their waterfront home, Susan said recently.
He would eat dinner with the family and hang out with Susan and her sister, playing cards and watching TV in the Weeds’ converted garage.
David had even attended the Weeds’ annual holiday get-together that year and weeks later was still talking about what a good time he’d had.
“Boy, your parents are really cool,” he said to Susan afterward.
When they later heard the Eagles’ song, “The Long Run,” David told Susan it reminded him of that night and how she had kept him out so late.
I used to hurry a lot
I used to worry a lot
I used to stay out till the break of day
Soon, the song would remind Susan of David.
The two had been dating seriously for a few months.
David knew the Weeds’ rules.
He was to bring Susan home by midnight, her curfew.
Midnight, when Marie would be waiting up as she always did, reading a book or watching TV in the den until she had seen to it that her younger daughter had been tucked in, a tradition Susan would continue with her own children years later.
That night, David and Susan’s date started where it ended, on Old Salem Road, near where Battery Point is now.
Back then, the road was narrow, unpaved, undeveloped and known as a lovers’ lane of sorts.
Smaller dirt roads wended their way off Old Salem and through thick brush and evergreen to farmland, marshland and fields, where people would build bonfires and ride four-wheelers.
“All kinds of things went on back there,” said Sonny Bessinger, who lived in one of the few houses on that road in 1980. “Drinking, partying ...”
It was there, Susan — who would be 16 in February — practiced driving David’s van that night for the first time.
Months earlier, when she and David had started dating, she had worried her father might have a problem with her boyfriend’s choice of vehicle.
She thought for sure he’d have something smart to say about it.
If it ever bothered Johnny Weed, he never told her.
After Susan drove the length of the road and back, she and David kissed for a bit before setting out to track down any fun that might be happening within the small radius of their lives.
The two went to the bowling alley on Ribaut Road and played pool with friends; then it was off to a little party in a trailer behind the Mitchells’ gift shop on Lady’s Island where they shared a beer, ate potato chips and listened to music; then they got a Whopper, Cokes and fries at the Burger King drive-thru on Ribaut, where David counted out to the penny what he owed; then they drove around town, to Sky City on Parris Island Gateway, where they sat in the parking lot and talked for a few minutes, and to the Pack-A-Sack convenience store just up the road to buy cigarettes, but it was closed.
Finally, they returned to Old Salem Road, where they planned to run down the clock on Susan’s curfew, right there on the edge of her neighborhood in Salem Point.
It was there, on this back road, seven-tenths of a mile from her parents, that Susan had her very last moment of truly feeling safe.
It was there, David had his very last moment.
On the night Susan and David were parked on Old Salem Road, Beaufort residents were still in shock over a crime that had taken place 10 days earlier.
Jack and Mable Hollis, described as “elderly” in the newspaper despite being just 61 at the time of their deaths, kept to themselves, had no children and lived in a small, neat brick home off Shanklin Road in Burton, about 6 miles from downtown Beaufort, and 5 miles from Old Salem Road.
They were murdered on Christmas Eve in 1979.
Their bodies were found two days later by Jack’s co-worker who went to check on the couple after Jack uncharacteristically missed work at Marine Corps Air Station without calling in.
The two had died in the corner of their blood-spattered master bathroom.
Jack had been shot in the head, neck and chest. His wife had been hit in the face and in her right wrist, possibly a sign she had gone down shielding herself.
Mable was wearing a hooded bathrobe and found lying partially on top of her husband, who was only in his underwear. Detectives with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, as it was called back then, said she was still holding a cigarette in her left hand.
The investigation noted that the couple had no Christmas decorations up — no tree, no cards from friends or family, no wrapped presents. There wasn’t any alcohol in the house. There was only enough food for their next meal.
Their van was missing, but their television, jewelry and expensive camera equipment had not been taken.
They had no known enemies and there didn’t seem to be anything more than what met detectives’ eyes: That is, two older people were simply in their home over the holiday and were killed despite not having done a single blessed thing to put themselves in harm’s way.
It was a mystery.
It was a tragedy.
It was, as one detective told the Gazette on Dec. 27, 1979, “one of the most horrendous crimes in county history.”
And this was no minor statement, considering that, earlier that year, two men had been sentenced to death in Beaufort County for torturing, raping and killing a Frogmore woman on St. Helena Island in 1978 — the details of that case so heinous and unimaginable that to this day they haunt those who were in the courtroom to hear them.
The Hollis case, however, was different in that it lowered the baseline for danger.
The Frogmore woman had been hitchhiking.
The Hollises had been … sitting? Sleeping? Talking about the weather? Laughing at an inside joke?
Whatever the case, they had been doing it in their home, which made it profoundly ordinary — and if it was ordinary, that meant it could happen to anyone, at any time and for any reason.
Even in Beaufort.
“I don’t know if I’ll be more afraid when the sheriff finds out who killed them and why,” a neighbor of the Hollises told reporters at the time.
In the days after the Hollises were found, the Gazette editorial board wrote that the “brutal slaying of a Burton couple points out the all-too-real truth that in this day and age we are not even safe in our own homes.”
Crime in Beaufort County, as it had been nationally, was on a steady rise at the time — fueled by the end of the Vietnam War, by an increase in unemployment, by an influx of wealthy residents and tourists south of the Broad River, and by a burgeoning and lucrative drug trade that had added the Lowcountry’s polka-dotted landscape of uninhabited and clandestine sea islands to its distribution chain.
The sheriff’s department was understaffed, undertrained, underfunded and wholly unequipped for the types of cases they were now seeing in a county of just 65,000, about one-third of its population today.
In 1979, the county had had six murders and, with 23 reported rapes, was well on its way to ranking in the top 10 for rapes and attempted rapes in South Carolina by 1982, which it did.
Just that fall a woman who was nine months’ pregnant had been raped in her Port Royal home. The rapist had tied her up with clothing and telephone wire and then threw salt in her eyes. A month later, a woman was abducted from the parking lot of The Image Lounge on U.S. 21 and raped by two men in a van while a third man watched. Before the New Year, an unknown man had broken into a Seabrook woman’s home and cut her telephone line, telling her he had traveled a long distance to rape her and would be back.
By September 1980, Beaufort County law enforcement would receive 22 reports of rape for the year.
The county was changing, and law enforcement scrambled to follow suit. No longer were they in the languid era of famed Sheriff Ed McTeer, who had served the county for 38 years, until 1963, and whose policing style is perhaps best summed up by former Gazette reporter Michael Ludden in his book “Tales from the Morgue”:
“Hard to imagine people today could enforce law and order as (McTeer) did then. He’d drive out some sandy road, pull over to chat with some folks. If you see Aaron, he’d say, tell him I’d like him to come in. And he would. Even if it meant jail.”
Sheriff Morgan McCutcheon, who in 1977 had been appointed by Gov. James Edwards to head the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, knew a change was needed and had in the fall of 1979, at a Beaufort County Council meeting, referred to his department as “a 19th century” agency, urging the county to dedicate more money to hire and train deputies.
In the meantime, the murders of Jack and Mable Hollis left McCutcheon with a shaken constituency.
Residents began to leave porch lights on. They drew their blinds. They started neighborhood watches. And they complained that law enforcement was not doing enough to make them feel safe.
The sheriff’s department’s entire eight-man detective squad, however, as well as several patrol officers, were working around the clock to solve the Hollis case.
Vacations were canceled. Families were put on notice. Hundreds and hundreds of man hours were racking up.
And then, just after midnight on Jan. 6, 1980, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department got another reminder that they were outmatched.
Jan. 5, 1980
Off Old Salem Road
Just outside Beaufort
David wasn’t feeling well.
He had vomited at the party on Lady’s Island. And then again in the parking lot at Burger King on Ribaut.
He wasn’t drunk, Susan said later. He had a stomach problem that had been causing him to feel lightheaded.
It had been going on for some time now.
Johnny Weed, Susan’s 44-year-old father, had recently been diagnosed with bone cancer. The thought of the two men she cared about most in her life being sick was too upsetting for her to consider.
“Why won’t you go see a doctor?” she asked David again before giving him the silent treatment on the way to Burger King.
By the time they got to Old Salem Road, however, they had talked about it and she was less annoyed with her boyfriend.
They pulled off the road and onto a path in the woods. They moved to the back of the van to neck and cuddle on the couch.
They did not have sex.
For 23 years, this would be Susan’s word against that of town gossips who were convinced they knew exactly what had happened in a van they were never in with teenagers they did not know — people who were absolutely certain the sheriff’s department was protecting a good old boy in their “investigation.”
“We’d better be going,” Susan told David after looking at her watch and seeing she had only 15 minutes left before curfew.
They moved to the front of the van and continued to talk and listen to music for a few minutes — David in the driver’s seat, Susan in the passenger seat, with the dome light on, giving the man outside a clear shot to his target.
In that moment.
Glass shattered. Gun smoke filled the van. Music continued to play.
David slumped over.
And Susan begged for her life.
The man sent five bullets into the van.
Three of them hit David.
Screaming, Susan took cover behind the passenger seat.
She had no context for what was happening. Nothing to compare it to. Nothing to judge it on.
She learned right then that monsters are real.
And that sometimes they make trophies of girls.
“Get out,” the man told her.
“Please don’t shoot me! Do you want money? I have money. What do you want?”
“OK,” the man said. “Just get out and give me the money.”
Still in the van and seated on the floor, Susan reached for her purse.
The man put the gun to her head.
She gave him $50 from her wallet, leftover cash from a shopping trip to Savannah earlier that day.
The man counted the money.
“Get out,” he told her.
“Don’t shoot me,” she cried. “Don’t.”
“OK. Just get out.”
“Do you promise?”
The man gave Susan his word.
She got out of the van.
“Take off your pants.”
Susan willed herself to stop crying and regain composure.
She started to comply.
But the man, who had been noticeably aroused from the moment he opened the van door, changed his mind.
He had already unzipped his own pants and removed his penis. He ordered her to her knees.
With the gun still to her head, Susan obeyed.
“Don’t you bite me,” he warned.
She did as he told her.
Fearing she would anger him, she asked if she was doing it OK.
“You’re not doing so good now. Let’s walk this way.”
The man, keeping his head ducked and shielding his face, told Susan not to look at him.
He directed her into the woods 100 feet in front of the van.
“Lie down,” he told her.
“On the bare ground?!”
The man got agitated, “Not unless you got a better place?”
“I can put my jacket down if it would help,” he said.
She lay on top of it.
First he performed oral sex on her.
Then he got on top of her.
As the man raped her, Susan stayed quiet and still and stared up at the trees and the sky.
As the man raped her, Susan prayed for it to be over quickly.
As the man raped her, Susan felt certain he would shoot her too.
A split-second memory had returned to her in the van as she hid behind the seat. She was 5 or 6 years old and on her swingset. Her mother was pushing her back and forth, back and forth.
This was her life flashing before her eyes.
Just as they say it will.
When the man had gotten what he wanted, he walked Susan back to the van — in a way, as if escorting a date back to her door.
Susan, as she had done before he raped her, tried to keep the man calm and talking, hoping he would find her too friendly to kill.
She asked him for a cigarette. He asked her what her name was. He asked her if she lived around there.
She asked him the same.
The man was vague in his answers. She told him the truth.
“Like a fool,” she later wrote in a statement to deputies, “I told him.”
“I’m sorry about your friend in there,” the man said, his words coming quickly, “but I knew it was the only way to get to you.”
David was leaning over the armrest, his body seizing.
“He ain’t dead,” the man said to Susan. “He got a CB?”
“You’re not going to call the police on me?”
“I won’t,” she said, hoping the tone of her voice sounded casual and made it seem true.
“Don’t tempt me,” he said. “OK. Get in the van until I’m gone.”
He took David’s van keys. He told her he’d throw them on the road for her.
Then the man left.
Susan shook her boyfriend.
“Are you OK?”
She pulled on him and tried to get him to sit upright.
Blood and mucus had erupted from his nose and mouth. His eyelids fluttered.
She hurried to the back of the van and looked out the window.
She went back to David and felt for his pulse — the way she had seen people on television do.
She tried to move him.
He was too heavy for her.
She looked into the darkness, into the opaque landscape where David’s killer, where her rapist, had escaped.
She looked out at the road home, now haunted.
She looked into the space that separated her before from her after.
The man was out there.
She just didn’t know where.
That night, David Krulewicz would be pronounced dead; Johnny Weed, Susan’s father, would be arrested; the sheriff’s department, with three recent murders on their hands, would be faced with ever-mounting pressure from a frightened community; and, hundreds of miles away, a 12-year-old boy in Connecticut and a 1 ½ year-old girl in Atlanta would be asleep with no earthly idea that two teenagers in South Carolina were already depending on them to catch their monster.
Click here for the second installment of “Monster Unknown.”
Reporter Liz Farrell began following the Beaufort County cold case after Isaiah Gadson was arrested for the 1980 murder and rape in 2016. The resulting series, “Monster Unknown,” is the culmination of more than 100 interviews, dozens of hours of archival research, a year of attending cold case committee presentations at the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, as well as shadowing Maj. Bob Bromage, a cold case detective with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, and Hunter Swanson, the lead prosecutor of the special victims unit at the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, as they prepared for Gadson’s trial. Dialog is based on the reporter’s firsthand observations, primary accounts of past events, video, audio, newspaper articles, letters, text messages, as well as sheriff’s office investigators’ reports and written statements from the original case files.