South Carolina

Victims of the State

8 Cases

Map of Counties

U.S. Cases




Date of Alleged Crime


Charleston County, SC Paul Mazzell Oct 30, 1978

Paul Mazzell was convicted of the murder of Ricky Lee Seagraves.  Seagraves was abducted at gunpoint from a convenience store in Ladson.  He was not seen again for three years until police, acting on a jailhouse tip, dug up his bones from a shallow grave off of highway S.C. 61.  The tipster, Danny Hogg, said he abducted Seagraves on the orders of an associate named Paul Mazzell.  Hogg said he brought Seagraves to Mazzell who killed and buried him.  Because of Hogg’s testimony, Mazzell was convicted of Seagraves’ murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Hogg was given immunity in the case even though he failed a lie detector test.  Witnesses who had heard Hogg brag of killing Seagraves were not allowed to testify.  Even Hogg's wife gave the FBI a statement implicating Hogg as the killer. The trial judge gave improper instructions to the jury that Mazzell's attorney failed to challenge.  The instructions allowed the jury to convict Mazzell of murder even if they thought he was not present at the scene of the crime.  One juror was an uncle of a law enforcement agent who worked on the case.

Mazzell admitted being an accessory after the fact in that he helped to bury Seagraves.  Had he known that Seagraves was dead, he said there was no way he would he would have met with Hogg.  He did not contact authorities “because I ain't no damn rat.”  Mazzell has been called the kingpin of the Dixie Mafia and admits he is no saint.  "I ran some clubs, some gambling, and a little prostitution."  Mazell was paroled in 2005 at age 76.  A federal judge has also ordered a retrial because the trial judge had given the jury faulty instructions.  (City Paper) (Online Petition)  [4/07]


Colleton County, SC Michael Linder June 29, 1979
Michael Linder was sentenced to death for murdering Willie Peepers, a highway patrol officer.  Linder contended he acted in self-defense because the officer had groundlessly fired six shots at him.  At trial, the prosecution presented expert witnesses who testified that the officer never fired his gun.  At a retrial, the defense secured previously undisclosed ballistics evidence from the state crime lab and was able to prove that the officer had fired his gun and that the prosecution's witnesses had distorted other evidence to make it appear that Linder had been the aggressor.  Linder was acquitted at his retrial and released in 1981.  [7/05]


Dillon County, SC Warren Douglas Manning Oct 29, 1988
Warren Douglas Manning was convicted of pistol whipping and shooting to death George T. Radford, a state highway trooper.  Manning was sentenced to death.  The trooper was shot at close range with his own revolver.  The defense argued that although the trooper arrested Manning for driving with a suspended license, Manning escaped when the officer stopped another car.  The defense also claimed that if Manning had shot the officer, he would have been covered in blood.  Witnesses who saw Manning minutes after the shooting noticed no blood on him.  A retrial resulted in a hung jury, but Manning was reconvicted at a third trial.  This reconviction was overturned and a fourth trial resulted in a mistrial.  At Manning's fifth trial, his new lawyer told the jury, “The law requires the state prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Without that, the law says you cannot find him guilty.”  The fifth trial jury acquitted Manning of all charges.  [9/05]


Lexington County, SC Perry Mitchell Dec 29, 1982 (Lexington)
Perry Mitchell was convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl at knifepoint.  DNA tests exonerated him in 1998.  (IP)  [10/05]


Spartanburg County, SC Jesse Keith Brown Dec 31, 1983
Jesse Keith Brown was sentenced to death for murdering John Horace McMillin, 63.  McMillin was shot during a robbery in his home near Fingerville.  The key evidence against Brown was the testimony of his half-brother, which was plagued with serious questions.  Brown's conviction was twice overturned.  He was acquitted at his third trial in 1989 when he presented new evidence that his half-brother was the true killer.  (PC)  [10/05]


Sumter County, SC William Pierce Dec 1970

William "Junior" Pierce was convicted of raping and murdering Margaret "Peg" Cuttino, 13, the daughter of a state senator.  Cuttino was reported missing on Dec. 18 and her body was found on Dec. 30.  Pierce, who had an IQ that "barely broke 70" and who was a known serial confessor, confessed to this murder apparently after being tortured by Sheriff "Red" Carter.  A document supports Pierce's contention that his confession was coerced by physical abuse consisting of burns, bruises, and cuts to his "privates."

In order to convict Pierce the prosecution theorized that Cuttino was murdered on Dec. 18, but when her body was found, the sperm evidence was not much degraded and this evidence implied that she was not killed before Dec. 25.  Public disagreement with the verdict arose starting with an uncalled witness who allegedly saw Cuttino on the afternoon of Dec. 19.  The county coroner joined the opposition.  Because of new evidence that arose following the conviction, it is highly likely that Pierce would be acquitted if he could get a retrial, but getting a retrial because of new evidence is very difficult under South Carolina law.  New technology raised the possibility of DNA testing, but the authorities contend Hurricane Hugo destroyed the biological evidence in 1989.

Pierce is not a glamorous defendant, having been convicted, after confessing, to three murders in Georgia, perhaps because of techniques similar to those used by Sheriff Carter.  Public opposition to the verdict seems surprising since an acquittal would do little to free Pierce, but physical evidence that Cuttino was killed much later than Dec. 18 seems compelling and such a finding would exonerate Pierce.  (CrimeLibrary)  [9/05]


Union County, SC Roger Dedmond Mar 1967 (Gaffney)
Roger Dedmond was convicted of murdering his wife, Lucille, because of a police officer's testimony that he confessed.  Three months after his sentencing another man, Lee Roy Martin, confessed to the murder and led police to the personal belongings of all his victims including Lucille's car keys.  Martin was known as the "Gaffney Strangler" after having been charged in the strangulation deaths of three other Gaffney women.  Dedmond was subsequently released.  [10/05]


York County, SC Billy Wayne Cope Nov 29, 2001 (Rock Hill)
Billy Wayne Cope was charged with beating, sexually assaulting, and murdering his 12-year-old daughter Amanda.  Amanda died at her family's Rich Street home in Rock Hill.  Police suspected Cope, as there were no signs of forced entry to their home.  After four days of interrogation while suffering from the stress of finding his daughter dead, Cope confessed to the crime.  Later DNA tests of the semen found inside Amanda matched another man, James Edward Saunders, who had a history of break-ins involving sexual assaults.  Saunders had moved into Cope's neighborhood a few weeks before.  Instead of dropping the charges against Cope, police, not wanting to waste a coerced confession, merely added a conspiracy charge, despite the fact that no connection was established between Cope and Saunders.  In 2004, both Cope and Saunders were convicted of the crime.  (TruthInJustice)  [12/05]