Surfside Beach man sentenced to 31 years in prison in 2011 murder

troot@thesunnews.comFebruary 14, 2013 

— A Surfside Beach man was sentenced to 31 years in prison Thursday after he was found guilty in the March 2011 shooting death of a Murrells Inlet man during a dispute over a 47-inch plasma television.

Kareem Shamel Harry, 28, showed no emotion Thursday afternoon when an Horry County jury of six men and six women convicted him. Members of victim Kevin Bowens’ family, seated on a single row, released a deep breath and sighed in unison upon hearing the verdict.

During Harry’s sentencing hearing, Bowens’ relatives quietly cried while his mother, Betty Bowens Grant, told Circuit Court Judge Steven John about her youngest child.

“Kevin was my baby . . . I miss my son, Kevin very much. Although he wasn’t a perfect child . . . he was making changes in himself,” Grant said. “He didn’t deserve to die the way he did. I feel like I was robbed. I miss my son.”

Bowens, 35, died within about an hour of being shot three times at around 9:30 p.m. March 1, 2011, in his driveway on Drayton Court in the Kings Grand Subdivision in Murrells Inlet.

Harry apologized to Bowens’ family before being sentence.

“The plan wasn’t to kill Kevin. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did,” Harry said. “I didn’t kill Kevin. Kevin didn’t deserve to be killed. It’s all overwhelming I thought I would be found not guilty, but I was found guilty. If this helps the family a little bit I’m OK with that.”

Harry also was sentenced to five years in prison, which will run concurrently with the 31 years, because he was on probation at the time of Bowens death. Harry had been sentenced to five years probation on a grand larceny charge.

Harry is one of five people who were charged in connection with Bowens death.

Also charged with murder in Bowens death were Thomas Gifford Byrne, 21, of Myrtle Beach and Saire Jerrel Castro, 23, of Myrtle Beach. Charges are pending against Byrne, while Castro pleaded guilty to manslaughter in September and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Amanda Lee Byrne, 24, of Myrtle Beach and Sage Lee McPhail, 21, of Loris, also each face charges of accessory after the fact of murder in connection with Bowens death. Those charges are pending

Ashley Bledsoe, who is also charged with murder in the death, testified Tuesday she was Harry’s girlfriend and had sold the television to Bowens, but he never paid her for it.

The 20-year-old woman testified that a couple days after she met Bowens, she went out to a restaurant and to a club with him before they returned to her apartment early Feb. 28, 2011. Later that day Bowens left with the television and was supposed to return with $400, but he never did.

Bledsoe said she told Harry that a woman purchased the television because she was afraid of him, while she told Bowens the television had belonged to a female friend.

But Harry demanded the money for the television because he had to appear before a probation officer the next day, Bledsoe testified Tuesday.

Bledsoe said she then told Harry about selling the television to Bowens and Harry wanted the television back. Bledsoe testified Bowens stopped returning her telephone calls and text messages, so Harry demanded she show him where Bowens lived.

According to Bledsoe’s testimony, Harry picked her up from a friend, drove her to the home of Castro and Byrne where she sat in a borrowed pickup truck before Harry returned and the other two men followed behind them in another vehicle. Bledsoe testified she directed them to Bowens home where Harry confronted him about the television in the driveway.

Bledsoe said she did not see the shooting because she had turned to walk back to the truck, but Harry forced her to drive away from the home afterwards.

While they were driving, Horry County police were alerted to the shooting and Sgt. Bill Muldoon was on patrol in the area and saw the vehicles fleeing.

Muldoon testified he and another officer chased the vehicles along McDowell Shortcut road before they stopped.

Harry jumped from the truck and ran away, but Muldoon took Bledsoe into custody.

Another officer stopped the other vehicle and took Castro and Byrne into custody, Muldoon testified.

After the shooting, police said they took Castro to the south precinct along Scipio Lane for questioning, but he suddenly ran from the building. Bloodhounds were sent out to search for Castro, but were unable to locate him.

Later, Castro was arrested in April in Lakeland, Fla., and returned to Horry County.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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