COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's the activity and the crime that everybody seems to know about, but few openly acknowledge: betting on sports, especially college and pro football.
Now, in the wake of the April 13 killings in Irmo's upscale Ascot Estates subdivision, sports gambling in the Midlands is getting public exposure.
Long before he became known as the lone suspect in a shocking double murder, Brett Parker was known by many in the Midlands as a bookie.
April's 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.
Shortly after Brett Parker's arrest in July, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott described the circumstances leading up to the shootings.
"Capnerhurst worked for Brett Parker in his bookie operation," said Lott. "And he was there to get paid some money that he was owed, which is not uncommon. This is something that was regularly done. It was a scheduled visit. Parker had told Capnerhurst when to come, how to come, and this was a normal visit."
Federal authorities joined the investigation and that produced plea agreements from three new defendants, each accused of conducting illegal gambling. They're identified in court records as Ronald Dale Spence, Harry Benenhaley, and Lanny Ray Gunter II.
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.
One law enforcement source calls Gunter "the top bookie in Columbia."
Investigators also believe as many as a dozen more people could face similar federal or state gambling charges.
A source describes the cases revealed so far as the "tip of the iceberg."
The plea agreements require defendants to cooperate with the government and provide information that might lead to charges against others involved in gambling.
One attorney close to the case says because of that, there are "tons of scared people" in the Columbia area right now.