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Feb. 24, 1983
Around 5:45 a.m.
The Marine walked as fast as a recent injury would allow.
A car pulled up beside her.
“Need a ride?”
It was only 2 miles between Greenlawn Drive, where she lived, and The Country Store parking lot, where her carpool to Parris Island would be waiting for her.
She was, however, moving slowly.
As she continued to limp along, she realized she might not make it in time.
This was no small matter. If she missed her ride, she would most certainly be reprimanded.
By the time a second car stopped near the Merit Motors dealership, near where Chick fil A is today, the Marine, who was 21, had changed her mind.
“Want a ride?,” the driver asked.
The Marine said yes.
She got in the man’s car.
He asked her where she was going.
She told him.
The man headed toward The Country Store.
Then he passed it.
“Where are you taking me?”
He turned right on County Shed Road.
“Where are you taking me?”
He drove about a mile.
She asked again.
He turned left down a wide dirt road.
He drove past a white trailer.
He made a right on another dirt road.
He drove toward an open field, near the school bus depot.
“Where are you taking me?”
Finally he told her.
“To buy some marijuana,” he said. “You smoke?”
Then another question.
“Ever have sex with a black man?”
The Marine told him she had not — that she was married, that she had been married for five years, that she was faithful to her husband.
The man stopped the car.
“I’ll be right back.”
He started to walk away, but turned around.
He returned to the driver’s seat and locked his door.
Then he locked the Marine’s door.
Then he grabbed her.
The Marine pushed him away.
He jumped on her, using his weight to pin her to the seat.
“I will blow your brains out if you keep struggling,” he told her.
He reached under the seat.
“I will blow your brains out,” he said. “Take your clothes off or die.”
Terrified, the Marine pulled her jeans and nylons to her knees and then pulled off one leg of both.
The man removed his pants completely.
For two to three minutes, he gave her oral sex.
“Did you enjoy that?” he asked her when he was done. “Did that feel good?”
He got on top of her.
He raped her.
When he was done, he got dressed.
Frightened, the Marine asked if she could do the same.
“Yeah,” he said. “You going to tell the police?”
Then he apologized.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t know why I did that.”
He tried to hand her $50.
“I’m not a prostitute,” she said, refusing the money.
The sun was starting to rise.
The man put his car in drive.
And the Marine looked at her surroundings.
A fuzzy item on the rearview mirror.
Two car deodorizers.
Cup holders in the doors.
A red spiral notebook on the dashboard.
She looked at the man.
Black, thin, around 26, about 5-feet, 9-inches tall, 150 pounds, short afro, sideburns, mustache, sparse hair on his face, a gold ring on his right ring finger.
The man stopped at the corner of County Shed Road and Parris Island Gateway, near Ellis’ Welding Shop.
He let her out.
He is going to shoot me now.
As she started to walk, the Marine braced for the bullet.
Each step away from him felt like a miracle.
One, then two, then three.
She heard the car start to pull away.
The Marine looked back.
Back windows tinted.
License plate KLG 446.
June 10, 2016
Beaufort Police Department
Isaiah Gadson sat in the lobby with his head hanging.
Like a child waiting outside the principal’s office, he sniffed back tears.
Gadson’s two daughters had brought him to the station.
Investigator Charles Raley recognized one of them from Spanish Trace Apartments. He hadn’t made the connection that the man he was looking for was her father.
“Hey. Haven’t seen you in a while,” he said to Wanda.
“He’s a good man,” Wanda said of her dad. “I don’t think he did this.”
Raley led the neatly dressed older man out of the lobby.
“You OK to take the stairs, Mr. Gadson? We can take the elevator.”
They took the stairs.
Witnesses had told police that Gadson was the man who shot 55-year-old John Dortch, a former roommate, at the Tiger Express just down the street earlier that morning. The two had gotten into an argument over some tools Gadson thought Dortch had stolen from him.
Police went to Gadson’s trailer in Burton to arrest him, but he wasn’t there.
Later in the day, Raley got the word.
Gadson, 63, was willing to turn himself in.
Upstairs in the interview room, Gadson sat in a chair, bent at the waist and with his head in his hands.
As Raley read him his rights, Gadson began to swipe at his eyes with a handkerchief.
“I don’t feel good,” Gadson mumbled.
“You don’t feel good?”
“You feel like you’re going to be sick or what?”
Gadson shook his head no.
“Aw man. I don’t feel good. My head.”
Raley offered him more water.
Then he regained composure.
“I don’t bother nobody,” Gadson said. “Or even say nothing to nobody.”
Ask anyone, he told Raley.
They’ll say “Him?”
I’m a preacher.
I lost half a lung.
I’ve had two heart attacks.
People take advantage of how nice I am.
John came at me!
He came at me.
“So y’all had problems for a while now?,” Raley asked.
“He had problems! He stole from me!”
“I tried to help him.”
Throughout the 18-minute interview, Gadson’s assertion that he was a harmless man became a mantra.
“I ain’t never done nothing to hurt nobody” even punctuated his confession.
“I just lost it, man. I’m serious. I just lost it. I don’t know what happened.”
But this attempted murder charge was too much. If anything this was self-defense, Gadson said.
“An attempted murder? I don’t never mean to hurt nobody.”
“I don’t know if I hurt him.”
“Do you normally carry a gun?”
He told Raley it was his nephew’s gun. He had just been holding on to it for him.
He said he threw it off the Broad River bridge that morning, but only offered vague details as to where.
“Honest to God, I don’t know if I shot him.”
“Yeah,” Raley told him. “You hit him in the neck.”
Gadson paused but did not ask how Dortch was doing.
Instead, he returned to his incantation.
“I don’t bother nobody.”
Raley started to ask another question.
But Gadson — a man who seemingly believed he had escaped his past — continued.
“When I been younger now …,” Gadson trailed off.
“It would have been ...,” then Gadson trailed off again. “But now?”
“Right,” Raley said. “But now, yeah …”
“I done settled,” Gadson told him.
Raley helped the man finish that thought.
“A little older, a little wiser ...”
Other bad acts
July 15, 2015
Bulloch County Correctional Institute
It had been 17 years since the two men had seen each other.
The inmate was graying at the temples now.
He was generally more bedraggled.
But there was no mistaking him.
It was Michael Teddy Powell.
He was the mouse to Bromage’s cat.
He was Road Runner to Bromage’s Wile E. Coyote.
He was, to Bromage’s mind, an animal who had escaped his rightful cage.
“Teddy! Do you remember me?”
And he appeared resigned to what was coming.
“They’ve got your DNA, Teddy,” Bromage said. “You’re f-----.”
Powell had been arrested a week earlier in Vidalia, Ga., and was charged with rape, aggravated sodomy and burglary in the sexual assault of a 21-year-old woman on Oct. 1, 2014, in Statesboro, Ga.
He was accused of knocking on the woman’s door shortly after midnight, barging into her apartment and forcing himself on her.
Bromage, who knew Powell’s criminal history well, was unsurprised by the disturbing details of the case — but he was incredibly shocked that Powell had been free to commit the crime in the first place.
In 1998, Powell had been sentenced to 50 years in the South Carolina Department of Corrections for six counts of burglary and three counts of petit larceny after a spree of break-ins at condominiums in South Forest Beach on Hilton Head Island.
Powell had been suspected in dozens of brazen cases from 1996 to 1997 in which a thief would enter units through unlocked balcony doors and steal whatever money and jewelry residents and visitors had left lying around — many times while the victims were home.
The Powell case is one Bromage considers to be formative to his career as a detective — and it’s one that would significantly influence the outcome of a 1980 murder-rape case the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department had reopened in 1999.
As the thefts on the island mounted, Bromage convinced his superiors to allow him to set up surveillance at one of the condominiums in Hilton Head Beach Villas, which the thief was known to rob.
In late October 1996, the sheriff’s department rigged a beachfront condo with video cameras.
Bromage, not yet 30 at the time, moved into the condo and left a wad of cash on the nightstand, visible from the balcony.
It took just two days for the thief to take the bait.
But Bromage’s instant success ended there.
The footage was too grainy to identify the man.
And the sheriff’s department was out $230 in cash.
“I learned my lesson on that one real quick,” Bromage said.
Moving forward, he left just $20. It would be more than two months before the thief would return to take it.
When he did, though, the image was clear.
The burglar turned out to be a chunk of a man with a five o’clock shadow and a full head of dark hair, not unlike Fred Flintstone.
No one at the sheriff’s department recognized the man in the photo, but less than a week later, Bromage was having a drink at Monkey Business in Park Plaza with another deputy when lo and behold.
“That’s our guy!”
Flintstone was at Monkey Business.
Bromage learned the man’s name.
Michael Teddy Powell.
Bromage learned his criminal history.
Nine charges of peeping Tom and indecent exposure in Georgia.
And Bromage realized something.
At the time, he had been investigating two sexual assault cases, one from September 1995 and one from October 1995, both in North Forest Beach.
The cases were alike in that the victims were white women in their late 20s who described their assailant as a white man, possibly in his 30s, with dark hair, a five o’clock shadow, thick body hair, a strong odor of beer on him, a heavy-set upper body with lean legs and a strong Southern accent.
Both women were home alone at the time of the attacks, and in both cases the suspect had entered their homes through an unlocked door, covered his face with his shirt, said demeaning things to them, masturbated in front of them and assaulted them in similarly and specifically horrible and graphic ways.
In reading over Powell’s previous cases, Bromage saw similarities to the local assaults, as well as what appeared to be a sexual predator becoming more bold with his victims over time.
He decided to continue his investigation and see whether Powell was their guy in the rapes as well.
Two weeks after Powell was identified — when Bromage was on leave — deputies pulled Powell over in a traffic stop as he was coming from the scene of yet another burglary.
Bromage got a call.
“You’re going to want to come in here.”
When Bromage got to the sheriff’s office, he handed a photo to Powell.
“Look here, Teddy. Who is that right there?” he pointed to a man’s face.
“That’s me,” Powell said.
“Teddy, that’s a burglary.”
Bromage asked Powell to sign the photo.
The suspect wrote: “This is me. Michael Teddy Powell.”
In addition to the burglaries — Powell later claimed 80 of them on Hilton Head, Bromage said — Powell was charged in the 1995 sexual assault cases.
The charges were dropped in the September assault, but the October case went to trial.
And the jury found Powell not guilty.
Bromage was angry but felt better knowing that the burglary convictions meant Powell was going to be behind bars until he was an old man.
However, in 2001 — and unbeknownst to Bromage — Powell’s 50-year sentence was amended to 20 years with credit for the four years he had already served.
He was released in 2014, after serving 85 percent of his amended sentence.
Just two months after he was released, Powell did the same thing he had been accused of doing to the two women on Hilton Head in 1995.
And now law enforcement had his DNA to prove it was him.
In July 2015, Bromage found out from a reporter at The Island Packet that Powell had been released and arrested again.
He was furious.
He went to Bulloch County not because there was anything Beaufort County could do to Powell for the 1995 cases — they couldn’t retry him — but because Bromage felt like Powell owed those victims the truth.
“I wanted to know,” he said. “I wanted him to admit it.”
Powell, however, wanted a deal.
“I’ll tell you what happened on Hilton Head,” he told Bromage before Bromage could ask. “If you get me out of a life sentence.”
Bromage didn’t try to get a deal for Powell.
Instead he had a deal for Bulloch County.
Bromage had contacted the victim in the October 1995 rape.
He asked her if she would be willing to testify in the Statesboro case to show the jury that Powell had a playbook, a typeology, a particular sick script he followed in carrying out his sexual assaults.
“It scared him into a straight-up plea,” Bromage said.
Powell pleaded guilty to sodomy and was sentenced to life.
It was a strategy Bromage would revisit.
A year after he met with Powell, Bromage received one of the most significant calls of his career — DNA evidence in a nearly 40-year-old murder-rape case in Beaufort County had been identified as belonging to a Burton man named Isaiah Gadson.
In looking at Gadson’s criminal history Bromage found that Gadson had been charged in February 1983 with raping a 21-year-old Marine, 3 miles from where 15-year-old Susan Weed was raped after her boyfriend, 18-year-old David Krulewicz, was shot and killed on Jan. 5, 1980.
In both cases, the rape victims were young, tall and slender. And both were raped in an isolated rural area by an unknown man who had threatened them with death, performed oral sex on them and apologized afterward.
The idea that another victim was willing to testify against him had contributed to Powell’s admission of guilt.
Could Bromage make the same thing happen with Gadson?
Could the threat of the Marine returning to Beaufort County to tell jurors what Gadson had done to her in 1983 push Gadson toward a guilty plea — thereby saving the Weed and Krulewicz families from having to relive their horror in a courtroom?
July 12, 1983
Beaufort County Courthouse
Before a jury could be selected, Judge Sydney Floyd had already made a decision.
The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, he said, had searched Isaiah Gadson’s car before they had a warrant, therefore the knives and the gun they had retrieved on the morning of Feb. 24, 1983, shortly after Gadson was accused of raping a 21-year-old Marine, were not admissible.
Gadson’s constitutional rights had been violated, he said.
Although probable cause could have been argued, the prosecutor’s office instead offered Gadson a deal.
They reduced the charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, to which Gadson could plead nolo contendre, meaning “no contest.”
For this, Floyd gave Gadson three years, with two years suspended.
Gadson, who was 30 at the time, was essentially sentenced to one year in prison for what he had done to the Marine.
Worse, the men in the courtroom used the opportunity to scold the Marine, even though she was not the one on trial nor even present in the courtroom that day to receive their sanctimony personally.
Their sentiments were recorded in a July 13, 1983, story in The Beaufort Gazette.
Assistant 14th Circuit Solicitor Winston Lawton — in justifying the deal he had just cut — said plea bargaining “serves as a balancing act for society to the benefit of the prosecution and the defense.”
“The case will serve the public,” according to Lawton, because “I don’t think anyone should get into a car with someone they don’t know.’”
One of Gadson’s attorneys, Phil Fairbanks, also weighed in, seeming to suggest that another victim in this might have been Gadson, for offering the Marine a ride.
“This case is instructive to the public as to picking up hitchhikers as well as getting into a car with someone they don’t know.”
The Marine never got to testify against her accused rapist.
But 33 years later, on Aug. 22, 2016, she received a phone call from Capt. Bob Bromage.
He told her about David Krulewicz and Susan Weed and what had happened to them in 1980.
He told her that Gadson was responsible.
“Would you be willing to testify against him if this goes to trial?” Bromage asked her.
The Marine was now in her 50s and living out of state.
Gadson was her monster.
A long time ago, she had put this monster in a box.
Then she sealed that box.
Now she had to decide whether to open it again.
She took a few days to think about Bromage’s question.
She called him back.
‘My past is my past’
Aug. 10, 2016
Beaufort Police Department
Isaiah Gadson grabbed a calendar from the lobby of the police station.
It was an unusually large calendar, featuring 20 photographs of uniformed Beaufort officers in action — a rather strange keepsake for a man suspected of attempted murder.
Gadson didn’t know it at that moment, of course, but he would never take home that freebie.
He would never use it to jot down doctors’ appointments or schedule handyman jobs or note birthdays.
In less than an hour, the only thing this calendar could do for Isaiah Gadson would be to remind him that time alone cannot erase past sins.
Gadson was out on $250,000 bond for the June shooting of John Dortch.
He was back at the station to talk with Investigator Charles Raley.
Raley had told Gadson there was an issue with Gadson’s grandson and that they needed to discuss it before it got out of hand, before police got involved officially.
Gadson was late for the appointment.
It didn’t really matter.
The meeting was a ruse to avoid the possibility of an armed confrontation between Gadson and law enforcement.
He only needed to show up.
Raley brought Gadson upstairs and sat him in the same room where he had confessed to shooting Dortch just two months earlier.
The two talked about Gadson’s grandson.
“He’s getting to that age where everything they do it’s about ‘You a rat,’ and not growing up,” Gadson said. “He growing up in his head but not in his mind.”
A few minutes in, the door opened.
“Mr. Gadson, Bob Bromage. How you doing? … You don’t mind me sitting.”
It was a statement more than a request for Gadson’s permission.
Gadson covered his face with one hand and mumbled.
“That’s a nice calendar right there,” Bromage said.
Gadson appeared to stiffen, but he continued to talk.
He took the opportunity to assure both men that he got it. He understood the issues with his grandson.
He understood the issues with kids today.
I’m doing what I can with him, he told them.
I’m trying to set him and his mother straight.
“Whatever he do now,” Gadson said of his grandson, “it going to follow him.”
“Absolutely,” Raley said.
“You know what I mean?” Gadson said.
“An ounce of prevention,” Bromage added, “a pound of cure.”
At that, Gadson turned toward Bromage, seemingly startled by the reminder that the detective was there.
Gadson nodded and made a sound.
“Oh he knew,” Bromage later said. “He knew as soon as he saw me why I was there.”
The three men talked for about 10 more minutes.
“I understand your job,” Gadson said, touching the calendar in front of him.
“Right,” Raley said.
“Your jobs can be tough sometimes.”
“Absolutely,” Raley said.
“Only getting rougher,” Bromage said.
“Yeah,” Gadson turned to Bromage then back to Raley, “As time goes on, you know, the generations are changing.”
“Mmmmhmmm,” Raley said.
“Sure,” Bromage agreed.
Gadson continued to pontificate about societal ills.
But it was OK, he said again.
These young ones had him.
“A lot of them kids look up to me, you know what I mean?”
“Well, you made it 63 years, right?” Bromage laughed.
Gadson did not respond.
Then Bromage got to the point.
“Do you know what a cold case is?” he asked Gadson.
Gadson’s chin dropped.
His hand went to the right side of his face.
Bromage explained how new information can help solve old cases.
Gadson began coughing intermittently.
“I was told by someone that I needed to talk to you about a certain case.”
Gadson coughed more.
Bromage told him it was about a homicide.
“I know nothing about no murder,” Gadson said.
Before they could talk further, Bromage told him, Gadson would have to sign a form acknowledging his rights.
Gadson became tense.
“Not be alarmed, OK? Not to be alarmed,” Bromage said. “You haven’t done anything, right?”
Bromage read a sentence from the Miranda form.
Gadson protested and became exasperated.
“What this got to do with me?”
He gestured to the form.
“What is this?”
Bromage told him about the case.
“1980?,” Gadson repeated.
Bromage continued to read Gadson his rights.
Gadson continued to sputter.
“So you questioning me?”
Bromage continued to read Gadson his rights.
“Having these rights in mind do you wish to talk to us now?”
“No,” Gadson said.
Bromage stared at him.
“This is wasting my time,” Gadson said. He became annoyed at Raley for lying to him.
He told Bromage he could barely remember to take his medicine never mind things that happened in 1980.
He started talking about how his life had turned around 20 years ago.
“My past is my past,” Gadson said. “Whoever I knew back then, I left them back there.”
I don’t drink.
I don’t do drugs.
“What I want to talk to you about,” Bromage said, “just so you know, is the 1980 murder of David Krulewicz.”
“Who is that?”
Bromage began to give details.
Gadson shook his head.
Bromage told him they couldn’t talk further unless Gadson signed the form.
Gadson wouldn’t do it.
“I’ve got some bad news for you,” Bromage said. “You are under arrest.”
He told him what for.
A jolt seemed to go through Gadson’s body. He sat back.
“And you know all about it,” Bromage said angrily.
Soon, Gadson would begin wheezing.
Soon, he would begin hacking and saying his chest hurt.
Soon, an ambulance would arrive.
But before that, Gadson would call a man on his cellphone while he waited to be handcuffed.
He told the man what was happening.
“Said I’m under arrest for a murder in 1980, some cold case or something in 1980 …”
“Word?” the man on the phone can be heard saying.
“Yeah,” Gadson said. “Talking about some cold rape and murder. I don’t even know, eh, 1980? I don’t know about that. 1980 …”
Aug. 10, 2016
Carolina Moving and Storage
Susan Neal saw Capt. Bob Bromage pull into the parking lot.
A few days earlier he had told her there had been a development in her case.
Bromage had been a fixture in her life for 17 years.
Once or twice a year, he’d stop by and check in with her, assuring her that they were still looking for the guy.
Sometimes he’d have a new piece of information he wanted to run by her.
“Does this ring a bell?” he’d say.
Susan knew from the way Bromage hurried out of his car and toward the building now, that he had good news for her.
“He was just so excited,” she said. “He was just about to jump out of himself.”
She got up from her desk and ran outside to meet him.
“We got him,” Bromage told her.
Susan began to cry.
The two stood and hugged for a while.
David and Susan’s monster had been caught.
And for the first time Susan learned the monster’s name.
A man who was never questioned by deputies after being accused of raping a 15-year-old in April 1980.
A man who walked free and was able to rape a 21-year-old woman three years later.
A man who had lived less than 2 miles from Old Salem Road in 1980.
A man who for 30 years worked at Brown’s Manufactured Homes, just up the street from Susan’s family business.
March 15, 2018
In the weeks after Bromage learned that there had been a DNA hit in the Krulewicz murder and Weed rape, he set out to shore up the case against Isaiah Gadson.
He requested a copy of Gadson’s birth certificate so the defense couldn’t suggest that Gadson might have an identical twin with the same DNA.
He interviewed potential witnesses who could attest to the fact that Gadson had lived and worked in Burton in 1980.
He talked to Gadson’s first cousin, George Clifford “Drama” Brown, who used to go to the Old Salem Road area with Gadson back in the day, who knew that Gadson owned guns in 1980 and who knew Gadson had a nasty temper.
“He said he popped one before,” Brown told Bromage, “and that he’d do it again.”
Bromage asked potential witnesses to show him the scene of the crime.
He re-interviewed Susan.
At night, he talked out the case with Sheriff P.J. Tanner and with SLED agent and behavioral scientist David Caldwell, spending untold hours on the phone with each, rehashing details to make sure every turn Gadson’s defense might try to make could be met with a block when it came to the investigation.
At Gadson’s bond hearing, he told the assistant solicitor who assigns cases at the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office that he wanted Solicitor Duffie Stone to be the one to prosecute the case.
And if not Stone, then he wanted Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton.
No one other than those two.
The case was too important to risk on a less-experienced prosecutor.
Bromage had worked too hard.
Susan and the Krulewiczes had waited too long for this.
And Isaiah Gadson’s 36 years of freedom had been too undeserved.
Stone or Thornton.
No one else.
Then, a year and a half later, Bromage — exhausted from working full-time while pursuing his master’s degree and concerned by rumors that a colleague was angling to challenge Tanner in the Republican primary — received an email from an investigator at the solicitor’s office.
The weekend before, Bromage’s father had died unexpectedly while awaiting surgery.
Slowly and quickly Bromage was absorbing the reality that his father was gone — that he would no longer be able to pick up the phone and talk to the man whom he had lived to make proud.
Howie Bromage, an Ivy Leaguer, had been fascinated by his son’s career.
He loved to get updates on his son’s investigations. He loved to hear his son’s enthusiasm. He loved that his son had so clearly found his calling in life.
On the night Gadson was arrested, Howie left his son a voicemail: “Hey Bob. It’s Dad. Just read the press release and good work. Excellent work. We’re proud of you anyway but that’s really good police work.”
When Bromage read the email from the prosecutor’s office, he was in Connecticut and at his father’s repast.
The trial would be moving forward and it would be in just over two months.
This is how they tell me?
An email from Johnny Generic?
No word for a year and a half and now this?
Then Bromage read who had been assigned the case.
Click here to read the next 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.