South Carolina

Horry County Sheriff’s deputies accused of manslaughter in drowning case appear in court

Two ex-Horry County Sheriff’s deputies acted “selfish and stupid” when they chose to drive into floodwaters leading to the drowning of two women they were transporting, a victim’s mother said.

“There is no amount of justice that will ever heal my heart for the loss of my daughter,” Linda Green told a packed courtroom Friday.

Former deputies Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop were transporting Nikki Green and Wendy Newton on Sept. 18. The two were under an order for transfer from Horry County mental health care to other facilities in the state.

On S.C. Highway 76 outside Nichols, the deputies’ van was swept off the road by floodwaters following Hurricane Florence. Green and Newton drowned in the back, and Flood and Bishop were rescued.

The Horry County Sheriff’s Office fired Flood and Bishop after the incident. The Green family spent months waiting for criminal charges against the former deputies. This week, prosecutors announced charges against the duo.

Flood was charged with two counts of reckless homicide and two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Bishop faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Two former Horry County Sheriff’s deputies, Stephen Flood (foreground) and Joshua Bishop, who have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, had their bonds set in a Marion County Court on Friday. The deputies were transporting mental health patients Nikki Green and Wendy Newton on Sept. 18th when they drove into flood waters and their van was swept off the road in Marion county. Jan 04, 2019. Jason Lee

Reckless homicide is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Involuntary manslaughter can be punished by up to five years incarceration.

The Horry County Sheriff’s department declined to comment on the charges and referred question to SLED.

On Friday, the ex-deputies were in a Marion County courtroom as a judge set Flood’s bond at $30,000 and Bishop’s at $10,000.

The men — who once were responsible for putting handcuffs on suspects — were themselves cuffed and wearing orange jumpsuits in court. Flood’s leg nervously bounced during the proceeding.

The men quickly posted their bond and left jail in street clothes with family.

Former Horry County Sheriff’s deputy Stephen Flood gets a hug from a family member after posting bond in a Marion County Court on Friday. Flood and another ex-deputy, Joshua Bishop, were transporting mental health patients Nikki Green and Wendy Newton on Sept. 18th when they drove into flood waters and their van was swept off the road in Marion county. Jan 04, 2019. Both of the former deputies have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Jason Lee

Defense attorneys said that the ex-deputies look forward to sharing details of the incident in court.

“This is a horrible, tragic accident,” said Bert von Herrmann, Bishop’s attorney.

Allie Argoe, Flood’s attorney, said the 10-year-veteran had no intention to harm the women.

“We hope the truth of what really happened that day will come out,” she said.

The attorneys also discussed the hardship Flood and Bishop and their families endured during the past five months. Those comments drew the Green family’s ire.

“I don’t care what they are going through,” Linda Green said.

Nikki’s sister Donella Green-Johnson said they were happy the judge set a bond for the two men instead of releasing them on recognizance. She said bond showed the seriousness of the crime.

“It’s a first step, it’s a victory, it’s a small one,” Green-Johnson said.

The Green was still agitated that Flood and Bishop did not face murder charges.

“It was not accidental,” Linda said, as Donella quickly added, “There was nothing accidental about it.”

Members of Newton’s family explained to the court the pain they’ve faced since the drowning.

“Everything that has transpired has been very hard,” Newton’s brother Matt Haywood said. “It’s just been a hard time.”

The arrest warrants

Despite being told of a route that was believed safe, Flood and Bishop chose one a co-worker said was not passable, their arrest warrants read.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigated the incident and provided details in the warrants of the incident.

On Sept. 18, water levels in many areas were rising following Hurricane Florence leading to closed roads and increased traffic, the warrants state. Before Flood and Bishop left J. Reuben Long Detention Center, they were told of a route that supervisors thought was safe. The warrants do not describe the routes.

A fellow officer said they didn’t believe the route through Nichols in Marion County was passable.

Bishop and Flood ignored the warnings and went through Nichols, the warrants state.

“He just ignored all of that,” Solicitor Ed Clements said.

U.S. Highway 76 in Marion County. Horry County Sheriff’s deputies were transporting Nicolette Green and Wendy Newton, of Shallotte, N.C., from Conway to medical facilities in Darlington and Lancaster when the transport van was swept into floodwaters along Highway 76. This is how the road looked in early October. Josh Bell

After passing through Nichols on Highway 76, the deputies encountered floodwaters and continued to drive as levels rose. The van stalled, was swept across the road and into the guardrail. The road had washed away and the transport sank into a large hole, the warrants state.

Bishop escaped the van, and initially Flood couldn’t free himself.

Newton and Green were unrestrained but were in the secured transport cage within the van and could not open it from inside.

Bishop unsuccessfully tried to free the women. He helped Flood from the vehicle, and they were rescued from the van’s roof.

Newton and Green drowned as the water level rose and filled the van’s interior, investigators say.

The warrants say that both deputies were criminally negligent in the death. It says Flood ignored a “clear and present danger” and drove into the floodwaters and Bishop did not take any measures to stop him.

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Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.