Man receives two life sentences for 2021 murders of Kershaw County couple

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Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 5:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A man received two consecutive life sentences for the 2021 murders of Steven and Nancy Hales in Kershaw County.

Thomas Dwayne Knotts, 46, was sentenced Monday by Judge Donald B. Hocker, who called Knotts’ actions “evil personified.”

The Hales’ bodies were found after officials put out a fire at their home on Lyttleton Street on January 10, 2021.

According to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, first responders found “a large pool of blood” in the driveway and the Hales’ throats slashed.

“Law enforcement soon began receiving tips that Thomas Knotts should be considered a suspect due to the fact that he had done odd jobs for the Hales in the past and frequently borrowed money from the couple,” the solicitor’s office said.

Neighborhood friends also reported a white Toyota Tacoma was missing from the home and tag readers caught it in “various areas” the morning of the murders, officials said.

According to authorities, video from First Community Bank and Safe Federal Credit Union ATMs revealed Knotts withdrawing money from the Hales’ account with their cards and witnesses reported seeing Knotts with several pieces of women’s jewelry.

“When Knotts was arrested at his mother’s home he had jewelry in his pocket that belonged to the Hales and had stashed a larger collection of the Hales’ jewelry in a shed,” the solicitor’s office said. “Evidence showed that after killing the Hales and stealing their belongings, Knotts poured gasoline throughout the home and set it on fire.”

Knotts was charged with two counts of murder, one count of second-degree arson, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of using a vehicle without the owner’s consent.

His trial was scheduled in Kershaw County the week of Sept. 25, 2023, but he opted to plead guilty instead.

Steven and Nancy Hales were married for 36 years and moved to Camden in 2005, the coroner’s office said.

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