Triple homicide in Pelzer; chase ends in Piedmont

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By Stan Welch

Jared Michael Williams faces a total of twenty criminal charges, most in connection with a killing spree he allegedly went on last Wednesday. Williams’ girfriend, Hope Kristian Phillips, facing three charges of accessory after the fact of murder and a murder charge in connection with the death of one of the three victims.

At a press conference held two days after the triple homicide shooting in Pelzer, Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper enumerated many of the charges filed against Williams, WM, 32, of McAlister Road in Williamston.

WILLIAMS
WILLIAMS
PHILLIPS
PHILLIPS

 

Williams led a bevy of assorted law enforcement officers on a high speed chase from Pelzer to Piedmont Wednesday afternoon, before crashing the stolen vehicle he was driving into a house on Highway 86 inside the Piedmont town limits.

Williams is charged with the murders, by multiple gunshots, of Victor Vandegrift, Hank Eaton, and the murder of Wanda Anderson by a single gunshot. All three murders, as well as the attempted murder of Tara Hendricks, occurred at a home at 104 Law Street.

Hendricks, wounded twice, hid beneath a bed briefly before escaping and fleeing to a nearby home, where she called police.

West Pelzer Police Chief Mike Clardy told The Journal that Williams had outstanding warrants related to the theft of financial transaction cards and was also a person of interest in several auto theft instances in the area.

“We didn’t have enough on the car thefts to get a warrant, but we were very interested in asking him some questions,” said Clardy. “Unfortunately, before we were able to locate him, these senseless killings took place.”

Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor confirmed Chief Clardy’s statements, saying that both municipal departments had been working with the Sheriff’s Office investigating both financial card crimes, as well as developing evidence concerning a number of auto thefts in the area.

“Williams was a subject in these cases, and we were aware that he was generally traveling from one area to the other. When the incident occurred, we responded along with other law enforcement agencies,” said Chief Taylor.

Williams’ girfriend, Hope Kristian Phillips, WF, 19, of Blue Forest Lane in Greenville, was charged with three counts of accessory after the fact of murder. She is also facing a murder charge in connection with the death of Wanda Anderson, because she in effect lured her into the house where she was shot, Skipper said.

Phillips, along with Williams, then fled the Pelzer scene in Anderson’s truck, for which both were charged with grand larceny.

Williams subsequently attempted to carjack another vehicle from Janet Walker, WF, 56, at 112 Stephens Circle, but was unsuccessful. He eventually came upon Randy Cape at 707 Old Williamston Road, along with other employees of R.L. Tower Construction Company. They had come outside to see what all the sirens and noise were about when Williams approached, pointed a gun and demanded the keys to a company truck nearby. Williams then fled in the truck, with county deputies in pursuit.

Phillips had gotten out of the truck she and Williams originally fled in and was apprehended alongside the road. She was taken into custody before Williams was apprehended. According to warrants provided by the ACSO public information office, Phillips provided a video and audio statement about the day’s events, as well as identifying Williams.

Williams was also charged with several counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. The gun used was a Smith and Wesson nine millimeter pistol.

He also faces three charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, after firing at three different deputies during their attempts to apprehend him. He faces a charge of failure to stop for a blue light also.

Reports that Williams was on probation were mistaken, but mainly in the way they were stated. Peter O’Boyle, Public Information Director for the State Parole and Probation Office clarified the facts in a telephone interview and follow-up e-mail with The Journal.

“Jared Williams was not on probation. In 1996, South Carolina abolished probation for those committing violent crimes. Instead, they substituted the community supervision program, which states that a violent offender must serve at least eighty five per cent of their sentence before they can be released. Unless they commit additional offenses while in prison, they usually are released.”

According to O’Boyle, Williams was convicted of Armed robbery in 2004 and sentenced to ten years. He served eight and a half years of that sentence and was released on November 30, 2012. Probation is a separate sentence altogether.

“Straight’ probation is sometimes given to non-violent, first-time offenders, or added on to a prison sentence for more serious crimes,” O’Boyle said. “That was not the case here, as Williams did about eight years of his armed robbery sentence before coming out on CS.”

“He was on Community Supervision, which is the last 15 percent of a person convicted of a violent crime’s sentence. In Williams’ case, he was in the last few months of his CS sentence for armed robbery, which would have ended on June 24 of this year,” said O’Boyle.

Sheriff Skipper had no insight to offer Friday as to motive at this time. The surviving witness Tara Hendricks said it began as an argument, but Skipper declined to provide any details.

He did clarify that despite preliminary reports, there was no indication that any of the parties were biologically related. He also clarified that early reports that a fatal accident which occurred a day earlier might somehow have been related have proven groundless to this point.

Williams and Phillips were both denied bond during a bond hearing Friday.

Phillips, speaking to Judge James Cox via a closed circuit television from the Anderson County Detention Center said the hearing was useless and a waste of time because her boyfriend (Williams) was responsible for the fatal shooting.

Cox, an Anderson County Magistrate, told her he couldn’t set bail because of the seriousness of the crime with which she is charged.

Authorities said before the shooting, they were looking for Williams for questioning in connection with recent car thefts in the area. He was also wanted on fraud charges in Williamston. According to records, Williams pleaded guilty to armed robbery in 2005 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

After the shooting Wednesday, there were rumors on social media and in the Pelzer community that the shooting may have been connected to a car crash Tuesday night in which Hayley Gunter, 21, was killed.

Reports state the SC Highway Patrol did not believe Williams was involved in the crash, however he may have witnessed it. The driver of the vehicle in the crash in which Gunter died has been questioned but has not been identified or charged.

Gunter was killed when she was thrown from the vehicle. She was not wearing a seatbelt authorities said.

Hayley Breanne Gunter, 21, of 803 Holliday Dam Rd. Honea Path was arrested on drug charges in Williamston on February 17 during a drug bust on Tripp St.