Friday, March 31, 2023

Man committed after murder shown free in small SC town

COLOMBIA, SC ( Associated Press) — The family of two sisters who were killed in a small South Carolina town was the last thing they heard about the man who confessed to killing them that he was a psychic in 2012 for treatment for schizophrenia. was going to the hospital, so he could be tried for murder later.

He didn’t hear anything for 10 years. Then, a few months ago, friends started calling the son of one of the women with the news that they had seen Joseph Germain Brand around Kingstree, said family lawyer Lori Murray.

Darren Tisdale, the second sister’s son and the mayor of the city of 3,100, began a search for Brand, from where police said he had confessed to shooting two women in the head after breaking into their home. October 2010. Tisdale called prosecutors but received no response.

“He killed two elderly women,” said Murray. “I can’t believe he’s not a threat to the whole city, just hanging out.”

The families of Murray and Naomi Johnson, 65, and her sister Thelma Haddock, 74, gave rare court records and other information to The Associated Press ahead of a news conference. Then he sought help from journalists.

“We need to shut up. I don’t know about you, but I had a big hole in my heart yesterday when my mom wasn’t around on Mother’s Day,” Darren Tisdale said.

In the courthouse, a clerk said there was no record of Brand’s arrest or indictment in two counts of murder, armed robbery, first-degree theft and weapons charges. Records could also not be found online, although some court records were still available in a file where the arrest warrant was kept. Other public records show Brand, 43, registered to vote in 2016 from an aided house near Colombia. At one point, he even had a Facebook page.

This is the only solid evidence of where the brand was until it reappeared at Kingstree. No one has given any explanation to the family as to why their charges have just disappeared.

In 2012 a judge ordered that if Brand’s mental ability was restored, he was to be brought back to Williamsburg County and held without bond for his trial. Under the law, a prosecutor could face up to 30 years in prison for Brand, with the possibility of a death penalty trial.

Murray said prosecutors have promised to reinstate the charges and said they will ask a grand jury to re-charge Brand at the end of the month. Solicitor Chip Finn did not return a phone message or email from the Associated Press. Even the assistant prosecutor who signed off on dropping the charges because of a qualification problem or a public defender of the brand at the time did not.

A woman in Kingstree who identified herself as Brand’s grandmother called an Associated Press reporter on Monday. No one responded to a message left for the brand’s mother at the listed telephone number.

Family members of the sisters said they had faith in the system, even when calls to Finney to investigate the matter in 2018 did not elicit a response. That was, until they saw the brand roam free.

“It has become very difficult for the entire family to replay this incident,” the family said in a statement issued through their lawyer. “We want justice for our mothers. We want closure for our families, we want Joseph Brand to pay for his crimes and we want answers as to how and why he was released without prosecution. ,

And Tisdale added on Monday “I hope Mr. Phinney does what’s right.”

The brand lived a few doors down from Johnson & Haddock in 2010. According to legal records, he moved to Kingstree to live with his father in a Nevada prison on charges of robbery, drugs, and wielding a gun from a vehicle.

Brand came to the sisters’ house and asked for money to spread pine straw. When he refused, Brand broke into the house, snatched a gun from one of the sisters and shot him multiple times, including in the head, the Williamsburg County deputy said.

Investigators said Brand’s father found her walking aimlessly in the sisters’ front yard. The father saw that his door was open and turned his head to apologize. That’s when he found the dead bodies.

According to the arrest warrant, Brand confessed to the murders. But records show that his mental problems prevented him from being able to assist his lawyer, prompting a judge to order a psychological evaluation. A psychiatrist’s report stated that Brand had schizophrenia and that his thinking was completely disorganized. The report indicated that Brand refused to take his drug and that if he did take it, his eligibility could be reinstated.

When asked about his age after his arrest, Brand replied, “Sixty-nine years in Islam.” Then he said that he is 34 years old. One of the two psychiatrists who examined him corrected him, saying that court records listed him as 33. “One and a half!” According to reports on his mental state, Brand yelled back.

When asked how he hopes his case will turn out, Brand, who once lived in Reno, Nevada, said he wants to “return to the biggest small town.”

As per the report, “I want to return to life as a rock star.”

Brand was previously referred to temporary psychiatric treatment but was unable to stand trial, according to Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, who in November 2012 ordered her to be confined until she got better.

This is where the trail of paperwork ends, in addition to a record of his registration to vote from the Assisted Living Home in Blywood in 2016. No one knows how the brand got back to Kingstree last year.

Murray said that even though the solicitor has promised to bring the case to a grand jury, he is concerned whether that will actually happen because it is unclear if Brand was declared mentally capable. Or not. She said she is still not getting a reply from Phinney’s office.

“The charges are over. The record has been dropped. Mr. Brand is roaming freely like a jaybird,” said Murray.

State mental health officials said privacy laws prevent them from releasing any details of Brand’s treatment. But in a statement on Monday, the Department of Mental Health said patients who require long-term care are treated by a probate judge and that both the judge and prosecutors are notified when the patient is no longer receiving involuntary treatment. is not required.

Finney’s office told the family that investigators were tracking Brand after they realized he had returned to Kingstree, but Murray said it was a matter of little comfort. He worries that now he may run away because he knows that at the end of the month a grand jury is going to hear the case again.

“He’s still there,” said Murray. “And I think if the case hadn’t been a problem, they could have brought him back.”


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter,


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