Special Reports

Chapter 6: ‘His last breath or ... mine’: Justice not easily defined in 1980 Beaufort Co. murder-rape

Though the night of Jan. 5, 1980 finally caught up to Isaiah Gadson, he got to walk free for twice as long as David Krulewicz lived — a fact not lost on David’s brother and sister.

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1973

Coosaw Island

Beaufort County

David Krulewicz put bait on the hook and cast his line into the water.

He set the rod against the railing and left it there.

At 11 years old, he had not yet developed forbearance as a fisherman.

“If a shark gets on there or a stingray, David, it’s going to pull that thing in the water,” his big brother Danny told him.

The two were fishing off the bridge that connects Coosaw and Lady’s islands.

After school and on just about every pretty day there was, the Krulewicz boys would be at the water’s edge looking for flounder or bass, casting for shrimp or digging up clams, depending on the season.

But they particularly liked baiting for sharks. The reel would start screaming. They’d have to fight to bring their catch to the surface.

And, the best part, it would be a surprise.

They never knew what they were going to pull out of the murk.

Once, David caught a female sea turtle. It took him an hour to reel her in and remove the hook.

“When she swam out to the inlet a shark attacked and killed her,” David’s mother, Betty Whisnant, wrote in a 1999 tribute to David.

“David grieved as if he had lost a dear friend. Of course, to him, she was.”

David did not have his own pole yet so he had to use Danny’s.

And just like that — just as Danny had said it would play out — a fish hit and the rod went over the side of the bridge.

David looked at his 15-year-old brother.

“A shark grabbed it,” he said.

“Hmm. Imagine that,” Danny said sarcastically.

“Well, how am I going to fish?” David asked him.

“Jump your ass down in the water and get it,” Danny told him.

They looked over the railing. The rod was floating fast away from them.

“I guess you’re done fishing for the day,” Danny said.

It is the only time Danny can remember getting angry at David.

There were five Krulewicz kids, Debby, the oldest, Danny, Diane, David and Dawn, the youngest.

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The Krulewicz children, shown in an early 1964 photograph of her siblings that Diane Larsen keeps on a bookshelf in her Bluffton home. Debby holds Dawn, Danny stands behind David, and Diane stands next to her brothers. David Krulewicz was shot to death just before midnight on Jan. 5, 1980. A 15-year-old girl who was with him was robbed and sexually assaulted. The assailant has remained unknown for 36 years, but the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office has recently charged a man with the crime. Courtesy of the Krulewicz family

After their father died — when David was 4 — their mother remarried and had two more boys.

The family moved from Pennsylvania to Florida and around a bit before landing in Beaufort County in the early 1970s.

There weren’t a lot of children on Lady’s or Coosaw islands back then, but David found friends quickly and spent most of his days outdoors, where he was happiest.

“I was always the one in trouble,” Danny said, laughing. “He was the good kid. I guess he learned from me what not to do.”

Danny and David shared a bedroom and, despite their four-year age difference, were close.

When Danny would fix up cars in the garage, David would be right there beside him working on his bicycle.

“The last time I saw him,” Danny said, “he was asking me the best way to run some speaker wires through his van.”

Danny was the first in the family to find out about David.

Around 2:30 a.m. Jan. 6, 1980, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department deputies knocked on the door of his Lady’s Island home, where Danny lived with his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

“David’s been shot,” they told him. “He didn’t make it.”

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A story in The Beaufort Gazette was published following the shooting death of David Krulewicz, 18, and sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl on January 5, 1980. It was included in a Aug. 11, 2016 press conference held by Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner and Capt. Bob Bromage about the case. Isaiah Gadson Jr., 63, of Burton, was charged with murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and armed robbery in connection with the 36-year-old cold case. Delayna Earley dearley@islandpacket.com

They escorted the 22-year-old to Coosaw Island to inform their mother.

By sunrise, as the news spread, the family’s phone was ringing off the hook.

More than 70 friends and family members filled their childhood home.

At some point, Danny broke away.

“I got upset being at the house with all those people.”

He drove to Old Salem Road in Burton, where his brother had been parking with his 15-year-old girlfriend Susan Weed the night before.

Right before midnight, an unknown man had come out of the darkness.

The man killed David and then raped Susan.

Danny didn’t understand any of it.

He walked around the edges of the thick woods.

“I was just looking and thinking about what all had happened,” he said.

He found a new-looking hypodermic needle, with no dirt on it, and a T-shirt on the side of the road.

He gave them to deputies in case they were clues.

Then he got back in his car.

This is where his memory of the next week stops.

These days when Danny looks at his two grandsons, who are four years apart, he sees himself and David.

Watching them interact reminds him of how it used to be growing up with a little brother.

For years after David lost Danny’s fishing rod, they’d joke about it.

When David was 15, he bought a Winchester .30-30 for hunting.

“Do NOT climb up the tree with that gun loaded,” Danny warned him.

He said it again as David headed out.

“Remember what I said about that gun.”

David grinned.

“Oh yeah, I remember. Just like you told me not to leave that fishing pole.”

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David Krulewicz’s headstone at the Forest Lawn Cemetery at Anderson Funeral Home in Beaufort. Liz Farrell lfarrell@islandpacket.com

‘I still cry’

May 24, 2018

Around 6 p.m.

Lady’s Island

At David Krulewicz’s funeral, David’s best friend Carl Rutland didn’t leave Susan Weed’s side.

The two stayed friends for a long time after David’s death.

They didn’t talk about what happened often, but their shared loss and memories of David cleaved perfectly, like two halves of a missing locket.

“He was so sweet,” Susan said recently of Carl. “He would always be right there beside me.”

David’s death is difficult for his friends to think about about even today.

It takes their breath away.

It stops their words.

In his short life, David had left a permanent impression.

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Carl Rutland, a resident of Lady’s Island, wipes away a tear while being interviewed about his childhood years and his friendship with David Krulewicz. Drew Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

“He was the nicest person you’d ever have met,” Carl said quietly. “He’d do anything for you.”

When the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office announced in August 2016 that a Burton man had been arrested in David’s murder and Susan’s rape — after a DNA match — Carl’s phone lit up.

The calls were celebratory and emotional, but also disheartening.

No one could believe that Isaiah Gadson, the person who had been accused of doing this, had lived in Beaufort all along.

Just miles from where the crime had happened.

Just miles from where Susan lived and worked.

Another surprise for Carl was finding out that David’s unsolved murder and Susan’s unsolved rape had still mattered to deputies.

“I didn’t know they were actually still hunting somebody,” he said.

He was grateful that they were.

On the day of Gadson’s verdict, Carl was surprised to find out the trial had already happened.

“If I had known, I would’ve been there,” he said.

It was David’s sister Diane Larsen who delivered the news.

“The two of us cried together,” Carl said.

Just like before, his phone didn’t stop ringing that night.

He talked to friends and family until 11 p.m.

“Everybody was crying,” he said. “I still cry about it.”

‘Tangled, mangled mess’

May 24, 2018

Around 10:30 a.m.

Beaufort County Courthouse

Beaufort

Trasi Campbell asked the jury to picture a web of yarn on the floor.

This, she said, is what the state of South Carolina’s presentation of evidence against her client, Isaiah Gadson, looks like.

“It’s a tangled, mangled mess.”

On the third and final day of trial, Campbell, chief defender in the violent crimes unit of the 14th Circuit Public Defender’s Office, had not decreased her speed.

Tasked with raising reasonable doubt in the mind of one juror — she just needed one — she continued to sprint toward that objective, shoving obstacles out of her way.

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In her closing arguments, Trasi Campbell, chief public defender of the 14th Circuit Public Defender’s Office, assures the jury in the trial against her client Isaiah Gadson Jr. that they should find him not guilty when they leave the courtroom for deliberations on May 24, 2018. Drew Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

In her closing arguments, she offered reinterpretations of testimony, broad characterizations of facts taken to the outer limits of the truth, and strong hints at possible conspiracies.

Susan Weed’s father was never questioned by the sheriff’s department?

They didn’t get a statement from Susan’s mother? Hmmm. Why not?

“When your folks are in trouble,” she said to the jury knowingly, “the wagons will circle.”

Campbell yanked hard on all the strings in her pretend snarl of yarn on the floor.

She cast the prosecutor’s office as desperate and reckless, accusing them of “dragging” a second rape victim into the trial to mask the weakness of their case.

She cast the second victim — an injured Marine who had reluctantly accepted a ride from Gadson early one morning because she was running late for her carpool to Parris Island — as a hitchhiker who could have been out all night drinking for what they knew.

“We know she was hitchhiking. She says ‘to work.’”

While Campbell’s tactics might not win her fans among victims and their families, she is well-regarded professionally.

She is smart and formidable, and a deliberate and hands-on public defender.

She’s precise with her language and unyielding in her quest to find information that might not want to be found.

Inside the courtroom, Campbell can be treacherous to her colleagues in law enforcement.

Outside those battles, though, she is liked.

She’s friendly and funny and more comfortable talking about those who’ve helped her along in her career than she is about herself.

But this was not a version of Campbell that the Weed or Krulewicz families would know.

By the end of the first day of trial, she had already become a “that” to the victims’ side of the courtroom — “that woman,” “that defense attorney,” “that bitch.”

By the end of closing arguments, she had worn them out entirely.

And she had worried them sick.

Is that defense attorney going to win this case?

Is Isaiah Gadson actually going to walk free?

The trial was a mental seesaw for the Weed and Krulewicz families.

Hope and despair took turns: one went up, the other went down, again and again.

Every moment felt significant and prescient.

Every question and answer a victory or loss.

Then, when tensions were at their highest and all nerves exposed, the worst seemed to happen.

Less than an hour after they had begun deliberating, the jury sent a note to Judge Brooks Goldsmith.

“The jury,” he told the courtroom, “wants to rehear Susan’s testimony.”

The bottomless fear

Aug. 10, 2016

Carolina Moving and Storage

Beaufort

After Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Bob Bromage — the detective who had been on Susan’s case since 1999 — left the parking lot of her business, Susan called her husband and told him the news.

The sheriff’s office had just arrested the man suspected of killing David and raping her.

The man, Bromage had told her, was from Burton.

“My knees just went weak,” Susan said. “I just couldn’t believe he had been right here all along.”

She and Rob went straight to their computers.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner spoke on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, about the arrest made Wednesday in connection with the 1980 shooting death of David Krulewicz, 18, in Beaufort, and the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

Susan needed to know who he was, what he looked like, where exactly he lived.

“I didn’t get any work done that afternoon,” she said.

She Googled the name “Isaiah Gadson.”

And found his picture.

When she saw his face, she broke out in a sweat.

Her heart started beating fast.

“It was eery.”

That night, she and Rob got in their car and drove to Glaze Drive and then to Bay Pines Road in Burton.

They drove slowly past the places where Gadson had lived.

Several times.

“I had to visually see where,” Susan said. “I had to put it all in proximity.”

It freaked her out to think about all the times she and this man might have entered each other’s space over the years.

All the times he might have entered her mother’s space, her sister’s space, her husband’s space, her children’s space.

“It’s a small town now, but it was a smaller town then,” she said.

Knowing Gadson was behind bars was a relief to Susan, of course. For 36 years, this unknown man had been in every shadow and in every strange noise.

As the years passed, though, it became increasingly easier to convince herself that he had left town or died.

If he hasn’t come back for me by now, he probably won’t.

Now that this man was known — now that she could see he was alive with a home and a family all within miles of her — a new fear began to arise in Susan.

He still had the potential to harm her.

And now he had a new motive.

At the bond hearing, she sought reassurance from the solicitor’s office that Gadson wasn’t going to be allowed to post bail.

“She was so worried,” Rob said. “‘Is he going to get out? Is he going to get out? Is he going to get out?’”

The prosecutor at the time, Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton, put her at ease.

Gadson waived his right to a bond hearing and remained in jail.

As the trial date grew closer and closer, Susan became increasingly worried.

Gadson’s conviction felt like it was in her control and out of her control at the same time.

Every word she said would be parsed. Every word other people said would be scrutinized.

On the day of jury selection, when Gadson was brought into the courtroom for the first time, Susan didn’t immediately notice.

She and Rob had just returned from a break and were taking their seats in the far right section of the courtroom.

In that moment, Bromage stood up and placed himself between Susan and Gadson so that Gadson could not see her.

Susan noticed Rob looking toward the defense table.

She did not turn.

Instead, her gaze locked on her husband’s face.

“Is that him? Is he here?”

Throughout the trial, Susan and Rob sat with not a sliver of space between them.

Each evening, they went for walks together.

Each night, Susan cried herself to sleep.

“It was horrible. Horrible. Horrible. It was tough for me to see her go through it,” Rob said. “It was awful. You can’t do or say anything to make her feel better. If you say ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to protect you,’ she’ll say ‘You can’t.’”

SusanRobNealPortraitDM.jpg
Susan and Rob Neal sit for a portrait in their Beafort, S.C. home on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018 as their dog, XX, checks to make sure everything is okay. Susan testified at the trial of Isaiah Gadson, the man who murdered her boyfriend and raped her when she 15-years-old was identified by DNA that the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office tested and placed in a national database. Drew Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

The fear that Gadson would be found not guilty was bottomless.

When the jurors retook their seats after requesting to rehear Susan’s testimony, the court reporter pressed play on the hour-long recording.

Susan cried, Rob sat with his body bent over and their son, Kevin, listened with his eyes closed.

Danny Krulewicz left the courtroom.

“I’m not going to sit through this again,” he said to himself.

He stayed outside the windowed doors and watched the jury’s faces.

Diane Larsen, David’s sister, became overwhelmed with sadness for Susan.

“You just wanted to go over and hug her,” she said later.

On the stand, it had been difficult not to see the hurt teenager in Susan.

On the recording, the image was even more acute.

Her words came out politely, as if she were talking to an elder.

They came out rushed, as if she were trying to explain a situation before getting in trouble for it.

They came out in tremors, as if each syllable were precariously balanced on her resolve to be strong.

Then her words came out sharper — as if someone had just insulted her loved ones.

The rumor that Susan’s father, Johnny Weed, had killed David persisted right up until Gadson’s arrest.

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Johnny Weed, pictured in his early 40s Courtesy of Susan Neal

But Susan and her family had only been vaguely aware of this theory.

The idea was so absurd that the few times it had been mentioned to them over the years, they had regarded it as isolated gossip and only gave it fleeting thought.

But when it was repeatedly brought up in court, they were caught off-guard and deeply wounded.

“You’re bringing up this nonsense? Why would you bring up a stupid rumor?” Susan said after the trial.

Susan’s mother, sitting in the courtroom was horrified.

“They put him on trial. I was shocked beyond belief,” Marie Ashley said.

After Susan ran home the night of Jan. 5, 1980, Johnny went to the crime scene with a shotgun.

He told Marie to take Susan to the hospital.

Marie was worried about her husband, though.

On the way out of their neighborhood, she stopped at the crime scene and got out.

Johnny, angry and disoriented, was arrested that night by a deputy who said he was worried Johnny was a danger to himself or others at the scene.

“Did your father drive there?,” Campbell asked Susan.

“I’m sure he did.”

“What did your father drive?”

“I couldn’t tell you.”

“A pickup? A car?”

Susan didn’t remember.

“Did you see him armed at that time?”

“I don’t recall.”

“You left to go back to the van within five minutes? Did you and your mother discuss that it might not be safe?”

“No …” Susan said, pausing. “I was scared to go.”

“When the police got there, are you telling me that you and your father and your mother were there at the van?,” Campbell asked.

“Yes?”

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A news clipping from the Jan. 7, 1980, edition of The Beaufort Gazette shows David Krulewicz’s van after an unknown man shot into it through the passenger’s side window, killing David, who had just turned 18. The Beaufort Gazette

Susan didn’t remember if she had gotten out of the car too. She couldn’t remember where everyone was standing exactly.

“Your father ended up in a little bit of an altercation that night.”

“I believe so.”

“And they ended up carting him to the jail, right?”

“Yes. I believe so.”

“Do you recall the friendship your father had with Sheriff McCutcheon?”

“They were friends.”

Campbell couldn’t outright accuse Johnny Weed of being a killer. Legally, her defense of Gadson could not be “third-party guilt.”

But that did not stop her from taking her hammer as close to her nail as it would go.

What kind of mother, Campbell wanted to know, would take her teenage daughter back to danger?

The insinuation: Unless there wasn’t any actual danger to them.

This is at the very top of the trial’s worst moments for Susan.

She knew she would get beaten up on the stand; she never expected that her parents would.

“Susan was thinking a lot of her daddy up there instead of herself,” Rob said. “About how unfair that was.”

She was also thinking about her octogenarian mother who had to hear all this.

“She’s just the perfect mom,” Susan said recently.

When Campbell was done with Susan, Hunter Swanson, lead prosecutor in the special victims unit of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, had a few more questions to set the record straight with the jury.

“Did your father shoot David?,” she asked Susan.

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Marie and Johnny Weed, parents of Susan (Weed) Neal. Courtesy of Susan (Weed) Neal

“No.”

Campbell stood up.

“Objection! Your honor!”

Goldsmith allowed the question.

Rapid fire, Swanson asked it again.

“Did your father shoot David?”

“No.”

“When David was shot, did you ever see him out there?”

“No.”

Susan let out a heavy sigh.

When Swanson asked her last question, Campbell got up.

She wasn’t finished with Susan.

She again wanted to know why, in 1999, Susan had asked her mother, “Do you think there’s any way Dad was involved with David’s murder?”

Susan does not remember ever discussing this notion with her mother and believes that if she had, it was likely because the cold case investigators had prompted her to do so.

In her question to Susan, Campbell took a single line in a sergeant’s report, written in the weeks after the case had been reopened, and crafted it so it would depict Susan as a daughter who had prolonged doubts about her father.

The phrase “Susan asked” in the report became “conversations with your mother” in Campbell’s questioning.

“You suspected your father,” Campbell said, stating it as if it were an established fact rather than her own interpretation of what was in the report.

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at,” Susan said to Campbell.

Her irritation was apparent.

“She was so ruthless,” she later said Campbell.

‘We saw the car’

January 1980

Beaufort

The woman on the phone had something she wanted to tell Danny Krulewicz.

She wouldn’t give him her name.

But she had a license plate number for him.

Danny’s brother had been killed a week or two earlier.

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department investigators had not arrested a suspect yet.

And they had little information to go on.

“We saw the car,” the woman told Danny.

She and another woman had been driving home from Savannah around the time of David’s murder.

They were just coming into town on S.C. 170 when a blue four-door car blew through the stop sign coming from Burton Hill Road.

The women had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting it.

The car crossed 170 and continued on Burton Hill.

She gave Danny the plate number.

Putting aside the likelihood of whether anyone could have seen the car’s license plate in the dark — never mind have the presence of mind to memorize it or write it down in the moment — Danny called the sheriff’s department.

No detectives were available, he was told.

So the dispatcher took down the information, along with a message for an investigator to call him.

But they never did.

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Photo of Isaiah Gadson Jr.’s car in 1983. Beaufort County Sheriff's Office

Angry and bereft, he drove to the sheriff’s department one night and parked his car up on the sidewalk, blocking the entrance to the building.

“That’s the kind of mental shape I was in,” Danny said recently.

A deputy came up to him.

“What are you doing?”

“I called a detective three days ago,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing.”

“This ain’t the way to get to talk to them,” the deputy said. “I’m fixing to arrest you. Move your car now or I’ll have it towed.”

Danny’s sensibilities returned to him.

Danny, he said to himself, this just isn’t going to work.

The deputy made him park the car and call his wife to come get him.

Danny went back to waiting for investigators to contact him.

He kept the piece of paper with the tag number in his wallet.

Whenever he saw a blue four-door car he’d look at the plate.

A few weeks later, he happened upon the car that the woman said she had seen that night.

He worked for a beer distributor at the time, and the car was sitting outside a bar. It belonged to an older man he knew from his route.

“Do you have a son around my age?” Danny asked the man.

The man said he did.

“He left town a few weeks ago,” the man said. “Moved to Minnesota.”

Deputies visited Danny, but not until April of that year.

He learned why only recently.

At the time, he figured they were there to ask him who might have killed David because they had looked up the tag number he had given them.

In the case file, however, there is no report about the tag number and no indication that investigators ever knew about the phone call Danny received.

Instead, there is a report from Susan Weed.

Around this same time, Diane Larsen, David’s sister, had visited Susan after school in the parking lot of Beaufort Academy.

She told Susan that Danny knew who had killed David but wouldn’t tell Diane the name.

“Great,” Susan said. “Let’s tell the police.”

It was the last she heard anything about it.

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Beaufort County Sheriff's Office

“Mayberry had Barney Fife,” Danny said recently of the sheriff’s department investigators at the time. “We had 10 of his twin brothers.”

Diane holds a similar opinion.

“It was a bunch of good old boys playing cops and robbers,” she said. “I think that’s what the Beaufort sheriff’s department was 40 years ago.”

That the man who had killed their brother lived within walking distance of where it happened, does not surprise Danny.

It angers him.

Looking back, there is no doubt that deputies missed opportunities in getting Gadson.

Gadson was named a suspect in a rape three months after raping Susan.

He was arrested for raping a Marine in 1983.

At least three rapes from 1980 to 1982 were reported that had very similar circumstances as that of the Marine: all were committed by a suspect described as a black man in his 20s, who had offered his victims a ride, who had driven them past their destinations to a field behind the county school bus depot and who had threatened them with violence if they didn’t stop fighting him.

And, lastly, the man whose car Danny said matched the license plate number given to him in 1980, appears to have shared an address with Gadson in 1980.

Yet Gadson was never questioned about David and Susan.

“Why didn’t they connect the dots then?” Danny said.

When Danny learned that there had been an arrest in his brother’s murder in 2016, he thought, “Hell, it’s about time.”

His frustration with investigators, he said, does not extend to Bromage or Sheriff P.J. Tanner, who reopened the case in 1999.

“I’m deeply appreciative of the fact that they did not give up.”

But he remains unimpressed with the initial investigation.

“In my opinion,” Danny said, “(the sheriff’s department in 1980) never opened the case.”

Diane said she hopes their brother’s case inspires other detectives to go the extra distance, to see how important of a role they play in the lives of victims and their families.

“Be a Bromage,” she said. “Pick up everything and look at it. Turn it this way. Turn it that way because I don’t think without Bromage, this would’ve gone anywhere.”

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Isaiah Gadson Jr. looks back at the gallery of his family and friends on Thursday after the jury left the courtroom to determine the verdict. Gadson is is being charged with murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault in the first degree. He is linked by DNA to the January 1980 cold case murder of David Krulewicz and the rape of Krulewicz’s 15-year-old girlfriend in Burton and Drew Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

‘Now we know who he is’

May 24, 2018

Beaufort County Courthouse

Beaufort

Susan Weed Neal’s son leaned in and pressed his head gently to hers.

Her husband, one arm wrapped tightly around her, whispered in her ear.

She sat ensconced by the two men.

She continued to cry.

David Krulewicz’s oldest sister, Debby Riddell, her eyes overflowing, her face reddened, her hands clutching tissue and held to her chest, looked upward — far past the ceiling, far past the sky.

Her lips formed rapid unheard words.

Across the courtroom, Isaiah Gadson’s family stared straight ahead.

Stunned.

The man they loved was the man who had done all this.

He was guilty.

On all four counts.

Murder.

Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.

Kidnapping.

Armed robbery.

Guilty.

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An officer shackles Isaiah Gadson Jr. after the jury found him guilty on all charges for the murder of David Krulewicz and the sexual assault, robbery and kidnapping of Susan Weed Neal. Drew Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

“For years, he knew who we were,” Danny said. “He knew all the players. We didn’t know who he was. Now we know who he is.”

Sixty-five-year-old Isaiah Gadson was sentenced to 50 years for killing David, 30 years for raping Susan, 30 years for holding Susan against her will at gunpoint and 30 years for accepting the $50 offered to him by a terrified teenage girl begging for him not to take her life that night.

“I know he’ll never be out with all the charges,” Diane said recently of the sentence, “but it was just kind of sad you know? He got 50 years for murdering David. Hell, he almost walked free for that long.”

The prison sentence she thinks he deserved is more about the word itself than the years it denotes.

She wanted that word to be said loudly in the courtroom.

She wanted Gadson to hear it.

“Life.”

For what he had taken from David.

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Tears start to well up in Diane Krulewicz’s eyes as she tells a story about reassuring her mother that is was okay for her to pass while she was on her deathbed and asked her to say, “Hi to David and hi to daddy.” David, Diane’s younger brother by two years, was murdered on Jan. 5, 1980 in a case that went cold until evidence that was retested in 1999 created a DNA profile that was later matched to Isaiah Gadson Jr., a long time resident of Burton. Drew Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

“It’s closure,” she said of the verdict. “But it’s not real justice. I don’t think there could ever be justice. If they’d have found out a long time ago (that it was Gadson), that would’ve been more justice.”

For Danny, justice will come in due time.

“There will be closure in this case when he takes his last breath or I take mine,” he said.

Gadson got to be a free man for 36 years.

“Now he gets to be an old man in prison,” Diane said.

Their brother, on the other hand, only got to be 18.

“He would be turning 57 years old,” Diane said of David in November. “He’d probably be a grandparent by now.

“I can put him up on this pedestal,” she said. “That’s where he belongs and that’s where he’d stay on his own accord. It’s not just me trying to glorify him. That’s actually how it would be.”

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Hunter Swanson, lead prosecutor of the special victims unit of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, sits alone in the courtroom at the Beaufort County Courthouse on the morning of May 24, 2018, the last day of trial in the Jan. 5, 1980, murder-rape trial of Isaiah Gadson. Liz Farrell lfarrell@islandpacket.com

‘You did’

May 23, 2018

Late afternoon

Beaufort County Courthouse

Beaufort

Hunter Swanson watched as the Marine and her husband said goodbye to Susan and Rob Neal.

It hit her hard.

The Marine had traveled to Beaufort County to painfully relive the scariest morning of her life in front of the very monster who had terrorized her. Her presence was a comfort to Susan — it gave Susan courage to face the trial.

The pure kindness of it.

The bravery.

The selflessness.

Swanson became overwhelmed with emotion talking about it the next morning.

“She didn’t have to do that,” she said.

Every day, Swanson was the first to arrive in the courtroom, hours before trial would start.

She would sit alone in the cavernous room and go over her witness notes for the day.

She would check that evidence was where it should be, that the equipment worked, that her visual aids were there.

In 1980 Swanson was a toddler in Atlanta.

This case was the oldest she had worked on.

The stakes were high.

And she did it.

She had successfully argued that the Marine’s testimony should be admissible.

She had staved off a tenacious defense attorney.

She had delivered four guilty verdicts to Susan and to David’s family.

And she had shown Bromage that he was wrong to think she couldn’t take the torch from him and carry it over the finish line.

Though the two had become friends in the weeks leading up to the trial, Bromage wanted Swanson to know how impressed he was with her.

The night before the verdict, they had talked on the phone for an hour.

And he apologized.

“You didn’t have to prove s--- to me,” he said, “but you did.”

Two days after the trial, Bromage continued to buzz about the case — a case that had been with him for most of his career.

He was relieved.

And happy.

And sometimes overcome with emotion.

He thought about Susan and the Krulewicz family and all they had gone through.

He thought about how much and how long he had worried about the outcome.

And though he doesn’t usually talk about police work with his 12-year-old daughter, he couldn’t help himself this time.

“It went well,” he said, explaining it only in general terms.

“That’s great, Daddy.”

Then he got a text.

It was from Swanson.

He smiled and read it aloud.

“What’s our next case?”

MonsterUnknownKrulewiczD.jpg
David Krulewicz pictured in the late 1970s. Courtesy of Diane Larsen

‘We love you’

May 24, 2018

Late afternoon

Forest Lawn Cemetery

Anderson Funeral Home

Beaufort

Susan and Rob Neal parked the car.

The trial had left them exhausted but there was something they had to do before going home.

They walked down the path together and stopped at a grave just to their left.

“David Krulewicz,” the stone read. “Dec. 17, 1961-Jan. 6, 1980. ‘We love you.’”

They placed flowers on it.

Thirty-eight years ago, the boy who liked to smile had been taken from the girl who was good at eliciting that response.

He was buried with her name clasped around his wrist.

She stood before him now.

“They got him,” Susan told David.

Click here to read “Monster Unknown” from the beginning.

Our Reporting

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.



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