Arrests in woman’s death announced at today’s press conference
by The Press and Standard | August 22, 2018 4:01 pm
Last Updated: August 22, 2018 at 5:13 pm
As Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland and Capt. Jason Chapman were sitting down before the media to discuss the progress in the investigation into Ashley Murdaugh’s death, other members of the sheriff’s office were processing the arrest of four suspects.
Chapman said that Martina F. Wolf, 30; her mother Cynthia Caron, 53, and Wolf’s boyfriend Alfred L. Taylor Jr., 23, were being arrested on murder charges.
A fourth suspect, John Dunigan, 53, was in custody on a charge of accessory after the fact in Murdaugh’s death. They were expected to appear in bond court shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
Chapman said he anticipates criminal charges to be filed against at least four other subjects in connection with the case.
When Murdaugh’s family contacted the sheriff’s office to report her missing on Aug. 6, they were adamant that the woman had not disappeared on her own, pointing out that she had missed the birthday of one of her children.
Sgt. Kelly Padgett of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office’s was initially assigned the case, but the path of the investigation ended up involving most of the members of the sheriff office’s Criminal Investigation Division.
That was because wealth of information investigators had to pour through. “Usually we are begging for tips,” Chapman said. In this case “we received a flood of tips.” He estimated that the investigators were receiving about a dozen tips a day. They were receiving information that Murdaugh had been seen in Cottageville, in Green Pond, in North Charleston. Chasing down those tips “stretched out CID,” Chapman said.
Through the investigation, deputies were able to isolate a group of individuals that were considered persons of interest.
Chapman said that during an interview, investigators were able to “break one.”
That person allegedly confessed to murdering Murdaugh in the early morning hours of Aug. 5.
What investigators can’t formally say is how Murdaugh was killed. An autopsy, which is supposed to be conducted in the forensic lab of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston on Thursday, will hopefully provide the investigators with the formal cause of death.
Chapman did not offer a motive for the killing but said “drugs were definitely involved.”
He said he was wary of releasing too much information during the press conference, held in the Colleton County Council Chambers. The case, he said, “has a very sensitive twist” that he was not ready to discuss.
While the investigation was continuing, Caron and Wolf were already in the Colleton County Detention Center. They had been there since Aug. 7 when they were arrested on aggravated assault charges stemming from an unrelated incident.
Caron and Wolf lived at a residence at 46 Cumberland Road. Caron owns the residence. Murdaugh had been staying at the residence for approximately two weeks.
Murdaugh’s body was found Wednesday afternoon, buried about 250 feet into the wood line on the left side of the residence.
On Wednesday morning, two canine units from Foothills Search and Rescue arrived on Cumberland Road at the request of the sheriff’s office.
Chapman said that the searchers had the proper paperwork to search the Caron property, but needed to obtain consent to search paperwork or search warrants for the neighboring properties if the search led over the property lines.
The paperwork in hand the dogs were put to work in the woods and led searchers to the burial site. Murdaugh’s body was uncovered and turned over to the Colleton County Coroner’s Office for transport to the Charleston medical facility.
Both Strickland and Chapman expressed gratitude to the community for the amount of information provided to investigators. Mixed among the wealth of valuable information, he pointed out, was some misinformation provided by several people attempting to “intentionally derail” the investigation.
Those people could be among those facing charges. Chapman said he and the investigators would be working to ensure that those people “answer for their actions.”
Chapman said he anticipated the sheriff’s office would be providing additional information on the case soon. “I’m eager to get the information out about everyone involved.” His goal is “to get them convicted.”
Strickland said that the community coming together encouraged him. He also said he was “very proud of our guys. They had worked countless hours, spending 15 to 20 hours a day on the investigation.”
Strickland said that although Murdaugh made had made some bad choices in her life, it should not have cost her life. “She was someone’s mother, daughter, sister.”
That is why, he said, “We treat every case the same.”