A 21-year-old North Carolina man was sentenced to seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty Thursday to voluntary manslaughter in the 2011 stabbing death of a 17-year-old at a Myrtle Beach area campground, according to authorities.
Adam Taylor Dwiggins, 21, of Shelby, N.C., pleaded guilty before Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles, who sentenced him, said Donna Elder, a senior solicitor with the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
The plea and court hearing occurred in Georgetown.
Dwiggins was booked into J. Reuben Long Detention Center at 8 p.m. Thursday and later will be moved to the S.C. Department of Corrections. Dwiggins had been free on $100,000 bail since Oct. 12, 2011.
Dwiggins and his mother, Kathy Ledford Dwiggins, 54, both of Shelby, were charged in the fatal stabbing of 17-year-old Michael Dalton Fitch, also from Shelby.
Kathy Dwiggins was charged with accessory after the fact and her charges are pending, according to the Horry County Public Index. She was released soon after being charged in 2011 on $10,000 bail.
Both Dwiggins and Fitch were from the same community and had been classmates, officials said.
Those who knew Fitch said Friday they were outraged about the sentence given to Dwiggins and they continued to mourn the loss of the teen.
Shannon Mayhue, who was on vacation at Ocean Lakes with Fitch when he was killed, said Fitch was like another son in her family and best friends with her son Dillon.
“Actually they referred to each others as brothers and Dalton went on our family vacation every year because he was family,” Mayhue said. “I just can’t believe this judge would only sentence this murderer to seven years and actually knock off the two years for the time he was on house arrest.
“He will only be in jail for five years. This family has been through so much and to have a judge place so little value on Dalton’s life is a complete slap in the face.”
Debbie Price, who said her daughter was close friends with Fitch, said the teen had numerous friends and a positive outlook on life. She said Fitch had spoken about going into a law enforcement career.
“Dalton Fitch didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He had no quarrels with Dwiggins in life. Dalton loved everybody in the world. He was a happy person, he could make everyone laugh by looking at them,” Price said via email.
“We remember Dalton Fitch as a friend who was always there, a smiling wonderful full-of- life friend to my daughter and thousands. Dalton had no enemies.”
Price said she was upset at the lenient sentence given to Dwiggins following his plea.
“There is no justice in S.C., none. What a surprise, a terrible surprise,” Price said. “Believe me, Dalton wasn’t trying to be a hero he just wanted to save a child, not for glory, but to help change the wicked ways of the world.”
Adam Dwiggins and his mother were arrested Aug. 20, 2011, after police were called to Ocean Lakes Campground at 6001 S. Kings Highway for an assault. Fitch was stabbed in the chest after an altercation between Dwiggins and a girl, officers said.
Fitch died while being treated at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center about 90 minutes after being stabbed. Police said his stab wound went through his body on the lower left side.
The charge against Kathy Dwiggins stemmed from her attempt to “sterilize and clean the knife,” authorities said during a court hearing.
Horry County police said Fitch saw Adam Dwiggins hit a 12-year-old girl and Dwiggins tried to leave the area, so Fitch confronted him to stop Dwiggins until police arrived to address the incident.
A witness who knows both teens told police that about 8:45 p.m. Aug. 20, 2011, Dwiggins threw a beer on a girl while they were passing each other on separate golf carts in the campground. The two stopped their golf carts, and Dwiggins, who was alone, hit the girl after she yelled at him.
Two men tried to stop the altercation, and one man took the keys from Dwiggins’ cart, so Dwiggins ran from the area, according to a police report. The witness told police that he and Fitch saw what happened and ran after Dwiggins.
They caught up with Dwiggins in front of Unit A6, and that’s when Fitch was stabbed.
Another witness said she was driving her golf cart through the campground when Dwiggins stopped her and asked for a ride, according to the report.
The woman said Dwiggins told her he was involved in a fight and “that he just stabbed someone.” The woman drove him to his rental site, where police later found him with his mother.
Kathy Dwiggins gave officers permission to come inside the rental unit and talk with her son about the incident, according to the report. When officers went inside, they found a bloody 4-inch folding knife in the kitchen sink.
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.