It took jurors more than six hours before they decided Monday night that two Conway men were guilty of murder in the 2011 shooting death of a 19-year-old woman.
Carnail Graham, 28, and Thomas Booker James, 25, both of Conway, were each convicted of murder in the 3 a.m. Nov. 8, 2011, shooting death of 19-year-old Shaquille Pertelle’s at her mobile home off S.C. 548 outside of Conway.
Circuit Court Judge Steven John sentenced each man to 32 years in prison for the young woman’s death.
A third man, Keir Lamont Johnson, 24, of Myrtle Beach, also is charged with murder in Pertelle’s shooting, but Johnson is not on trial this week. His case will be heard later.
The trial of the men began Oct. 13 with jury selection and continued with four days of testimony before attorneys made closing statements Monday morning and jurors began their deliberations that afternoon.
Nancy Livesay, an assistant solicitor who prosecuted the case, told jurors that Graham, James and Johnson planned to rob Pertelle’s boyfriend, Rodney McElveen, at the couple’s shared home.
Pertelle was either sleeping or watching television on the couch when the men kicked in the front door at 3 a.m. that morning and she was shot, Livesay said.
“Shooting her was merely a step to get what they wanted, which was whatever drugs and money they could get out of that house,” Livesay said. “All the evidence points to them. There’s not one piece of evidence that points to anyone else. “
Defense attorneys told jurors that Pertelle’s boyfriend, Rodney McElveen, shot at the two men, who invaded their home that night and Pertelle mistakenly was shot. They also said cellphone records showed their clients were not near the shooting scene.
“The bullet that killed [Pertelle] came from [McElveen’s] gun. There was no murder,” said David Canty, Graham’s attorney. “If [McElveen] was sure he had not accidentally shot [Pertelle] he would not have hid the gun.”
The gun was found later in the home by a family member.
Canty and Bobby Frederick, James’ attorney, each said that Johnson lied when he talked to police after the shooting and when he testified last week about who went with him to the house to rob McElveen of drugs that night.
Johnson testified that he was driving the getaway van and dropped James and Graham off outside Pertelle’s home.
“Fear, apathy and incompetence,” said Bobby Frederick, James’ attorney. “Fear because nobody wanted to talk. ... Apathy because no matter what the evidence showed, people just didn’t care. . . . The solicitor’s office handled it incompetently.”
Frederick told jurors to question why McElveen wasn’t called to testify and why a .357-caliber bullet was what killed Pertelle and that was one of the guns owned by McElveen.
But Livesay said defense attorneys were trying to “trick” jurors and divert their attention from the evidence.
“We are not here for [McElveen]. We are not here for a drug case. We are here for a murder case,” Livesay said. “This was a well planned out murder. Don’t be fooled, this was not a random murder. . . . They went there to kill and take what they wanted.”
She told jurors that McElveen had a right to protect himself, his family and property from the intruders.
“They are so busy trying to make him out a criminal. They want to convince you that [McElveen] shot her. The only problem with that is that is absolutely impossible,” Livesay said and then held up the bullet fragments taken from Pertelle’s body. “This is the only bullet not fired from a gun inside that house. He did not shoot her.”