Then-15th Circuit Solicitor Ralph Wilson Sr. remembers the early 1990s as he worked with Bonnie Todd to find justice for her 17-year-old daughter who was slain in 1991.
But it certainly was not the last memory of the 79-year-old woman who died Wednesday. Their friendship had just begun.
“Ms. Todd and I maintained our relationship well after that trial,” Wilson said. “She would often come by and bring me collared greens and pecans, things like that, that she would grow in her garden or in her yard. Almost two, three, four times a year she would do that for me.”
Wilson said he was saddened to hear of Todd’s death, and said Bonnie Todd “loved Crystal more than she loved life itself.
“After Crystal’s death, it really took a lot out of her. She struggled ever since that time. She had a really difficult time. She’d have good days and bad days, but it was a struggle for her.”
The story of Todd’s daughter, Crystal Faye Todd, captured the hearts of locals and was even featured on television shows, including a nationally televised crime show on Investigation Discovery called “Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets.”
Crystal Faye Todd was found the morning of Nov. 17, 1991, in a ditch in the Maple community of Horry County. She had been stabbed at least 30 times, her throat was slashed and she had been raped.
After an intense three-month investigation, Horry County police charged Johnnie Kenneth Register, one of Todd’s friends, with murder. Police collected DNA evidence from Todd’s body that conclusively showed that there was only a one in 1.3 million chance that the sample was not a match to Register.
The case was among the first in the Southeast and the first in the state to use DNA evidence for an arrest and conviction. Register was convicted in 1993 and is serving life in prison. Register’s projected parole eligibility date is Feb. 18, 2022, according to the S.C. Department of Corrections.
Wilson recalled taking a trip to New York City with Todd to appear on the Sally Jesse Raphael show, a popular talk show in the 1990s.
“I remember that morning when we got up, we went downstairs to eat breakfast,” Wilson said. “Ms. Todd was asking the waiter if they had grits. They said no they didn’t have grits. So she went back upstairs and came down with a package of instant grits that she brought with her. So, she got herself some hot water and fixed herself some grits right there in New York City.”
The Horry County-born woman bought her daughter a 1991 Celica as an early graduation gift. She defended her daughter’s honor as defense attorneys continuously through the late 1990s painted Crystal Faye as a partyer and drinker until 2000 when Register’s trial attorneys admitted Crystal Faye was an average kid.
“That made me feel better than anything I’ve had in 9 years,” Bonnie Todd said in a 2000 article in The Sun News.
In 2001, a circuit court judge denied Register’s motion for a new trial.
Bonnie Todd said then she was glad the judge denied Register’s motion for a new trial.
“It makes me feel better, ‘’ Todd said then. “It’s the best thing I’ve heard in a while.’’
Bonnie Todd died at Conway Medical Center. Funeral arrangements are pending at Goldfinch Funeral Home, Conway Chapel.
Wilson said he will miss Todd’s impromptu visits.
“She was just a loving and warm kind of person,” Wilson said. “She had a big, big heart. That’s just the kind of person she was. We’re going to miss her.”