Officials took nearly four hours to locate Eric Perry, who was eventually found with the body of Jessica Hill on his boat on Sept. 29, according to newly released documents, 911 tapes and recordings of radio traffic from the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office.
The documents outline a timeline of the incident, beginning with the first call the the Georgetown County Fire Department at 9:56 a.m., reporting that Perry’s Bait and Tackle was engulfed in flames.
After the initial call, additional callers were unsure if anyone was inside the building.
By 9:58 two callers had stated that “someone was standing in front of the building, smoking a cigarette, watching it burn,” the document reads. It is unclear at this time who the person was.
By 10:01 a.m. Midway Fire Rescue was called to aid in the fire. Officials learned by 10:03 a.m. the flames were mostly contained to the porch.
Shortly after, at 10:11 a.m., an investigator was requested to determine the cause of the fire.
An initial report from the Georgetown County Fire Department states that witnesses reported a male leaving the area in a small boat after the fire was reported.
By 10:16 the Coast Guard and DNR were requested to search for the suspect along the Inlet.
At 10:21 a.m. an employee opening a store near the scene saw Eric Perry “with blood all over the boat and something under a blanket which is possibly a body,” the document states. “Eric Perry is on a boat in the Inlet. He is to be considered armed and dangerous.”
The documents state Perry was wanted for questioning involving the structure fire.
DNR was in the water by 11:19 a.m. Between 10:21 a.m. and 11:40 a.m., officials attempted to ping possible cell phone numbers for Perry in order to track his phone. All numbers showed up as having been last used earlier in September.
By 11:42 a.m. officials received a call from a witness the “suspect possibly broke jettys” and is in the ocean, the document shows. At 11:53 a.m. another witness stated that he had “passed Eric Perry on his boat in the water,” the document reads.
Horry County and Surfside Beach officials were then asked to assist in the search.
Between 12:28 p.m. and 12:34 p.m. officials contacted the Georgetown County ER, Waccamaw ER, Conway ER, South Strand ER and Grand Strand ER to see if Jessica Hill or Eric Perry had been seen. All ER’s reported that neither had been seen.
At 12:51 p.m. officials had Perry in custody behind Drunken Jack’s. Documents state that Perry was the only person on the boat.
A report from the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office states that Hill’s body was recovered “in the possession of the defendant at the time of his arrest.”
An autopsy performed shows that Hill’s cause of death was strangulation and head trauma, the Georgetown County Coroner’s Office said.
Perry was taken to the Georgetown County Detention center where he was charged with one count of murder and one count of arson of the second degree, a release states.
By 6:54 p.m. the crime scene was taken down and officials were contacted to patrol the area overnight.
Later that evening members of the community had gathered to place teddy bears, flowers and other trinkets in order to honor the Murrells Inlet woman.
On Oct. 3, the Murrells Inlet community honored Hill, and the three kids that she left behind, with a procession of more than 20 boats around the Inlet.
Friends and family shared their memories of Hill over their boat radios as they threw red and white roses into the water.
Hill was well-known in the fishing community, after she began to learn more about the sport when she married Perry and began to run the shop.
“We was just there last weekend and she helped my wife,” Mickey Wright, of Surfside Beach, said. “She was real nice, she was real personable, she was real kind to everybody.”
A visitation for Hill was held Wednesday evening at the Goldfinch Funeral Home in Murrells Inlet. A funeral service is scheduled to be held on Thursday at 1 p.m. at Belin Memorial United Methodist.