Friday, March 24, 2023

Former deputy sentenced to 18 years after the prisoners drowned in a closed van

COLOMBIA, SC ( Associated Press) – A South Carolina deputy whose police van was washed away in floodwaters after Hurricane Florence died Thursday after drowning two women seeking mental health treatment trapped in a cage in the back. Was sentenced to prison.

A Marion County jury found former Horry County Deputy Stephen Flood guilty of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of negligent manslaughter.

Judges ordered Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43, to be involuntarily committed on the day of their deaths in September 2018, but their families said they were not violent. Newton was only seeking medication for her fear and anxiety and Green’s family said she was committed to a mental facility at a regular mental health appointment by a counselor she had never seen before.

Flood, 69, was sentenced nearly 30 minutes after the verdict and after several relatives of the women said that her decision to proceed with the shortest path left an impossible-to-fix hole in her life.

Green’s sister Donella Green-Johnson told the judge, “It was a deliberate act by an arrogant, stubborn person.” “He abused the trust entrusted to him by my sister, Nikki, Wendy, and the state of South Carolina. For what else? To save time.”

Circuit Court Judge William Seals sentenced Flood to five years in prison for each involuntary manslaughter and four years for each reckless manslaughter, and ordered the sentencing.

In September 2018, flood waters took the police van off its wheels and stuck it to the railing, preventing women from exiting the sliding door they used to enter the van. According to trial testimony broadcast by WMBF-TV, Flood and a deputy accompanying him did not have the key to the second door and there was no emergency escape.

Public representatives said they spoke to the women and tried to keep them calm for about an hour because the water was rising before it became too dangerous and rescuers could no longer hear them.

“How terrible must it have been to sit there and wait for your death?” Solicitor Ed Clements said in his closing argument on Thursday.

While other factors such as an emergency radio that failed to inform rescuers of the van’s exact location contributed to the deaths, Clements said that the drowning was due to the floods having to drive 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) through all the water. Came out with careless decisions.

National Guard soldiers put up barricades on US Highway 76 just outside Nichols, but after a brief talk with the soldiers, a flood surrounded them.

Clements read from Flood’s statement to investigators that he realized that once he was in the water, he could not turn around because he could no longer see the side of the highway and worried about going into a ditch hidden by water. Was.

“Maybe it hurt his pride or stubbornness. I don’t know He proceeded into the water which was not only standing in a high puddle, but running across the railing. It was all Little Pee Dee River up until then,” Clements said.

Flood’s lawyer said it was a terrible tragedy, while others were trying to wrongly blame the former deputy rather than just equipment problems, which soldiers forgave him around barricades and observers who knew that a dangerous flood was starting and sent the women, even after taking them. There was no emergency for mental health facilities.

“I ask that you resist the urge to try to do justice to those two women by doing injustice to this good man,” defense attorney Jarrett Bouchet said. “They want to make him the scapegoat for this accident.”

Flood did not testify, but before the sentencing she told the judge that she did everything possible to keep the women calm as the waters rose and help was slow to arrive.

“It was a series of mistakes on my part and other people’s that got me to that point and I’m sorry for what happened to the girls,” Flood said.

Officials said Flood and his accompanying deputy Joshua Bishop were eventually rescued from atop a transport van. The bishop will stand trial for two counts of involuntary manslaughter at a later date.

He tried to break the lock of the other door, but it did not open. The delay in getting help was also costly. A firefighter testified that they were able to cut off the roof of the van and begin work on the cage, but the water got higher and faster and it was too dangerous to continue.

Newton’s son Charles said he hated that Flood would have to learn to follow the rules and use common sense at such a high cost.

“I can forgive, but I cannot forget. Fortunately, I still remember my mother as a happy woman, a happy woman who loved her family,” he said. “But you , Mr. Flood, will miss my mother after hearing her scream in the back of that van.”


Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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