S.C. Supreme Court upholds N.C. man’s life sentence in 2005 slaying of Horry County couple

07/10/2014 4:07 PM

07/10/2014 4:08 PM

The state Supreme Court has affirmed the life sentence of a North Carolina man for the 2005 killings of an Horry County couple.

Bruce Antwain Hill, 29, of Tabor City, N.C., had filed an appeal based on three issues from his September 2011 trial for the murders of Diane and Charles Parker Sr., both found shot to death April 12, 2005, in their home off S.C. 90 near S.C. 22.

In his appeal, Hill had challenged the circuit court’s ruling to suppress evidence regarding Gagnon’s conviction; allowing the jury to see a letter about his DNA being in a national crime database; and that his rights were violated after a continuance was granted for prosecutors a day before the expiration of an Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act in the case.

In their opinion, issued Wednesday, justices said they did not find sufficient evidence to warrant any changes to Hill’s conviction.

“I’m delighted that the Supreme Court has upheld Bruce Hill appeal,” 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said Thursday.

Richardson said he had been awaiting the opinion since attending the Feb. 5 hearing in Columbia where appeals attorneys argued their stance.

Hill and 41-year-old Richard Gagnon were each convicted in the Parker’s deaths.

Gagnon successfully appealed his case and is awaiting a new trial. He has been free on $50,000 bail since early 2013, a few months after he requested a new trial citing new evidence in his case.

Richardson said he did not have any new information about Gagnon’s case and that it continues to progress through court proceedings. A trial date has not been set.

In January, 2013, Circuit Court Judge Steven John ruled Gagnon deserved a new trial based on testimony about a witness lying during Gagnon’s initial trial. Gagnon had been sentenced to serve two life sentences on two counts of murder and 30 years in prison for first-degree burglary in the incident.

Hill also was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and 30 years on a first-degree burglary charge, with those sentences running concurrently following his 2011 trial.

Horry County police charged Hill in 2009 after his DNA sample, which was taken when he was committed to the Tennessee Department of Corrections to serve a seven-year prison sentence, was uploaded into a national database and linked to the Parkers’ deaths, according to authorities.

Prosecutors said Hill’s blood was found inside the Parkers home, but it was unclear what caused Hill to bleed.

Hill pleaded guilty to robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery in connection with a Nov. 15, 2006, incident in Tennessee. His sentence is expected to be completed in September 2014 and he will be returned to South Carolina to begin his sentence here.

In October 2013, Hill was returned to Horry County, but he invoked his Fifth Amendment right and refused to testify in Gagnon’s appeal.

Gagnon, who had dated Diane Parker’s daughter, Bambi Bennett, has denied playing a role in the slayings and during a hearing in September 2013 Gagnon denied knowing Hill.

Bennett also was charged in the deaths of her mother and stepfather, but prosecutors later dropped those charges. She also denied knowing Hill.

Prosecutors linked Gagnon to the crimes after blood linked to Charles Parker Sr., was found on Gagnon’s shoes. Gagnon said he got the blood on his shoes after he went inside the Parkers home after police and crime scene had left and removed crime scene tape.

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