Suspect pleads guilty to killing Orangeburg police officer

Video still from Satellite Beach police cruiser (2004)
Video still from Satellite Beach police cruiser (2004)

(Orangeburg) November 30, 2006 - A Virginia man who shot an off-duty South Carolina police officer nine times with a rifle and then set his body on fire pleaded guilty to murder Thursday.

Twenty-three-year old Mikal Deen Mahdi gunned down Orangeburg County Public Safety Captain James Myers on his farm in central South Carolina in July 2004. Mahdi then set Myers' body on fire inside a shed that Mahdi had been hiding in.

Investigators say Mahdi sought shelter in the shed while fleeing police during a multistate crime spree that included the killing of a North Carolina convenience store clerk a week earlier.

Mahdi was arrested when Myers' unmarked police pickup truck filled with weapons, ammunition and body armor was spotted in Satellite Beach, Florida.

About those crimes, Mahdi said, "Your honor, I would say the facts were true, sir."

Mahdi said he pled because he thought he would have been convicted. The judge accepted the guilty plea.

A judge will sentence Mahdi on Monday. South Carolina prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Thursday in court, Mahdi wore increased restraints, leg braces on him as well as shackles. They came after officers found a homemade handcuff key in Mahdi's pocket Wednesday.

They say Mahdi's been working on it since Monday, when the trial began, hiding it in his mouth or pocket. Mahdi admitted he tried to use the key to escape.

Mahdi said he didn't like that officers kept him in the restraints overnight in his cell, "It's almost petty, childish that the director of the Orangeburg County Detention Center would resort to such measures. Yeah, I'll say that on television. The Orangeburg Detention Center Director is childish."

Officer Myers' family, fighting back tears, felt relieved at justice, especially Myers daughter Meredith, "I loved him very much. He was a wonderful father, but I have two little girls who aren't going to get to know him."

Jim Myers was a captain with Orangeburg Public Safety. He had 30 years of experience.

Mahdi had family in the courtroom as well. His sobbing grandmother, Nancy Berwell, from Virginia, spoke to WIS, "We greeted each other, hugged, I told him he looked well. What more could I say?"

Reported by Jennifer Wilson

Updated 3:18pm by Bryce Mursch with AP