Suspect arrested in CCU student’s shooting death

troot@thesunnews.com, akelley@thesunnews.comMarch 1, 2013 

— A 20-year-old Conway man accused in the shooting death of a Coastal Carolina University student surrendered to police at a gas station in Conway Friday afternoon, said Thom Berry, State Law Enforcement Division spokesman.

An arrest warrant was issued for Marquis Spencer McDonald charging him with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime in the shooting death of 19-year-old Anthony Darnell Liddell.

A bond hearing may not occur for a month, said 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson. That’s because of the penalty a murder conviction could carry.

If convicted, McDonald could face the death penalty, or 30 years to life imprisonment, Berry said. The weapon charge carries an additional five years imprisonment unless the sentence is death.

Richardson said it could take four to six weeks to prepare the case file for McDonald’s bond hearing, which will be heard by a circuit court judge.

Liddell died an hour after he was shot at 7:22 p.m. Tuesday night in the parking lot of University Place apartments at the university, Berry said.

McDonald has never been enrolled as a student at CCU, Berry said. The relationship between the two men was not identified and no motive has been released.

“This was not a random event this was something that happened between two individuals that just happened to be on the Coastal Carolina University campus,” Berry said. “It was a sad and tragic event, but for those that are concerned about the safety of the campus itself, I can assure you this campus is safe and is being well protected.”

At 5:30 p.m., Berry said McDonald was still being questioned and said that interview would likely last “some time.” He said agents were hoping to learn more about the relationship between Liddell and McDonald as the investigation continues.

It was not clear if other arrests are pending, and Berry said the investigation is ongoing.

“We’ll go where the investigation leads us,” he said. “Whether or not there may be any other individuals involved will have to be determined as the investigation continues.”

McDonald has two pending drug charges that were filed in October and was convicted of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in 2010, according to court records. In the assault charge McDonald was sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act to a period of six years, but that sentence was suspended to 18 months of probation.

SLED is responsible for the investigation of any death on a college campus by statute, but Berry said local authorities and the U.S. Marshals Task Force assisted in the investigation.

Thursday night CCU officials held a candlelight vigil for Liddell, who was described as a kind person. Also on Thursday, Horry County officials released the 911 telephone calls made after Liddell was shot about 7:20 p.m. Tuesday.

In the calls, multiple students called 911 dispatchers saying they heard gunshots and then saw “a guy laying on the ground outside University Place apartments.” None of the callers reported seeing the shooting.

People tried to put Liddell into a vehicle, the callers said, but then decided to wait for EMS. One caller reported that Liddell was breathing, his eyes were open and he was conscious.

There was some confusion in the 911 calls over whether Liddell had been shot in the stomach or back, and about the color of the vehicle that was seen driving away from the parking lot following the shooting. Bystanders used a shirt to apply pressure to Liddell’s wound until EMS arrived.

Liddell was taken to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 8:30 p.m. from at least one gunshot wound to the chest that caused massive bleeding, Horry County Deputy Coroner Darris Fowler said.

Liddell was a sophomore from Bennettsville who was majoring in sports medicine and hoped to become a physical therapist, according to his family. He was a 2011 graduate of Marlboro County High School and was a football player there for two years before he graduated with honors.

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

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