Appreciation day, golf outing planned for convicted bookie - - Columbia, South Carolina

Appreciation day, golf outing planned for convicted bookie

Lanny Ray Gunter II Lanny Ray Gunter II

Friends of a Chapin man who will spend five months behind bars for his role in a Midlands gambling ring are planning to host an "appreciation day" and golf outing for him weeks before he is expected to report to federal prison.

The event, dubbed "The Lanny Gunter Appreciation Day and Golf Outing," is scheduled for February 11 at Mid-Carolina Country Club in Prosperity. 

In early January, a federal judge sentenced Lanny Ray Gunter II, 42, to five months in prison, to be followed by five months home confinement, for his participation in a Columbia-area gambling business. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $10,000.

Two other men, Harry Bruce Benenhaley, 66, of Columbia, and Ronald Dale Spence, 61, of Irmo, were sentenced to five years probation, including six months of home confinement, and ordered to pay fines of $2,000.

Investigators say as many as a dozen more people could face similar federal or state gambling charges.

Chris Dorsey, who describes himself as Gunter's best friend, says the event is being held to honor a "great man." 

Dorsey says Gunter is a good Christian family man and has been a valuable member of his community, heavily involved in charitable work including the Pray 4 Kennedy effort and runs legitimate businesses. According to Dorsey, Gunter also hosts kids at his home for a prayer breakfast every couple of weeks.

"Did he make a mistake? Is he a gambler? Yes," said Dorsey. But Dorsey also says Gunter has accepted responsibility for his actions, cooperated with federal authorities and will emerge from prison a better man.

All pleaded guilty in October to conduct of an illegal gambling business. The plea agreements require the defendants to cooperate with the government and provide information that might lead to charges against others involved in gambling.

The three might not have ended up in trouble with the law if not for the killings in Irmo's upscale Ascot Estates subdivision on April 13, 2012.

Long before he became known as the lone suspect in the shocking double murder, Brett Parker was known by many in the Midlands as a bookie.

The fatal shooting of Parker's wife, Tammy, and their friend, Bryan Capnerhurst, at the Parker home turned up evidence both men were involved in sports betting.

Federal authorities joined the investigation which eventually produced the plea agreements from Gunter, Benenhaley, and Spence.

It was Gunter, according to prosecutors, who loaned Parker $5,000 to help him get started in taking bets on football, basketball, and other sports.

Sources say Gunter owns or co-owns several businesses including the Wild Hare bars in Columbia and Irmo, a T-shirt company, and a restaurant.

The cost to participate in the event is $100 for individuals and $400 for a team. Click here to view the registration form. Dorsey is expecting 20-25 foursomes. Gunter is expected to take part.

Proceeds from the event are slated to go to a newly-formed foundation called The Hare Cares, according to Dorsey. 

The Hare Cares Foundation was established by The Wild Hare Sports Café with the purpose of offering financial support to those in need in the Midlands, Dorsey said. The foundation will take applications for assistance and the board of directors will review the circumstances of each request and allocate the appropriate funds based on the needs of the family and the fiscal position of the foundation.

Funds for the foundation will be raised through various sanctioned events throughout the year and a year-round campaign conducted by The Wild Hare Sports Café.

Dorsey said the foundation will have three constant members which will be Lanny Gunter, Chris Clark and Chris Kokolis.

Gunter is expected to begin his prison sentence sometime in March.

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