DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Major procedural changes are in place after a WIS investigation into a 14-year-old murder case out of Darlington County.
Last month, WIS aired a special report into the I-20 Girl murder case. Investigators think a trucker murdered a woman in 2000 then dumped her body in the woods at an Interstate 20 rest stop in Darlington County. WIS uncovered multiple mistakes and unexplained delays in the sheriff's office's handling of the case.
Those delays and a subsequent cover-up could put this murder investigation into a state that may keep it from going to trial. Since last month's WIS investigation, the Darlington County Sheriff's Office changed its procedures with investigations. In addition, the judge who signed off on a murder warrant in this case says he is changing things in his office, too.
Darlington County Sheriff's Capt. Andy Locklair said John Wayne Boyer, who is the accused killer in this case, was charged with the murder of Michelle Haggadone, who was identified as the I-20 Girl. However, that charge is not a formal charge. The next day, Locklair resigned from the sheriff's office. Locklair was supposed to get a murder warrant in 2011 for Boyer, but he never got that warrant until days before WIS aired its first special report on this case.
The sheriff called what Locklair did to get that warrant a cover-up. However, the Darlington County Sheriff's Office still hasn't served Boyer with that warrant. He is not formally charged with the killing until deputies serve him.
"We've notified North Carolina that we have pending charges on him, but the warrants have not been served and it won't be served until we are ready to bring him back," Sheriff Wayne Byrd told WIS' sister station last week.
The sheriff's refused to interview with WIS about this case. Byrd was at the press conference in 2011 when Locklair told Haggadone's family and the public he'd have warrants on Boyer. WIS wanted to know from the sheriff what he did to make sure those warrants happened. But Byrd never returned WIS' calls to explain his plan.
Sources told WIS that after the follow-up report last week that Byrd called a meeting with his investigators to issue new orders to keep what happened in the I-20 Girl case from ever happening again.
"But really, that's what we are going to have to do, follow up and make sure the work is getting done," Byrd told WIS' sister station.
The magistrate who signed off on Boyer's murder warrant in March declined an interview with WIS. The judge explained that he signed the warrant for Locklair after the former captain swore under oath and gave the judge an affidavit, claiming he had new information in the Haggadone case. Once the judge realized WIS was about to air its investigation into Locklair's failures to bring charges, the judge put in place changes in his office.
Now, the judge said he'll keep all affidavits in his office when law enforcement asks for a warrant.
No warrant served
The best explanation WIS has received so far as to why Boyer hasn't been charged is that the accused killer isn't going anywhere any time soon.
Boyer's serving time in a North Carolina prison on a separate murder conviction and then he'll go to Tennessee to face a murder trial there. According to Byrd, Darlington County won't serve Boyer with the murder warrant until they're good and ready.
In 2007, Boyer pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after he admitted to killing a woman he knew in Wilmington. Boyer said he and Scarlett Wood were doing drugs in a hotel when he said something made him angry. He told the judge he then killed Wood and dumped her body in the woods.
Boyer was sentenced to 12 years for that and his sentence ends in July 2015.
"Well once you serve a warrant on somebody, it starts the process of schedules, you might say – events that have to take place," Byrd said. "Whatever faults or mistakes that [Locklair] may have made, really, they were his mistakes and don't affect the case itself."
Boyer's murder charge against him is out of Nashville, Tenn., when investigators found a prostitute's body dumped at an Interstate 40 truck stop. In 2009, a Hickmon County Grand Jury indicted Boyer on a first-degree murder charge.
It's a move Darlington County still hasn't made.
"It certainly would lend validity to what the investigator said three years ago – if they brought a charge," said criminal defense expert Jack Swerling.
Swerling told WIS there isn't anything stopping Darlington County from pursuing an indictment against Boyer. Swerling said an indictment would go a long way to showing the public and Haggadone's family that the sheriff's office is certain they have the true killer.
"There's been no accountability here in South Carolina," Swerling said. "Notwithstanding the fact that North Carolina and Tennessee have had a bit at it, so I think they're entitled to know that happened here and is this the real killer and if he's the real killer, then the family is entitled to have that brought here to South Carolina and have him convicted for that – or tried for it."
The solicitor on the Haggadone case said he's advised the sheriff's office to not serve the Boyer murder warrant until he finishes reviewing the evidence in this case. Prosecutors took their first look at this case file after WIS first questioned the solicitor last month.