Crime

Murder victim left in MB-area parking lot for 5 hours after shots-fired reports

Reports of shots fired were called in 5 hours before police found body.

Here's the 911 call a woman made after hearing shots near an apartment complex.
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Here's the 911 call a woman made after hearing shots near an apartment complex.

More than five hours elapsed between reports of shots fired and police arriving on scene of a homicide July 10 at a Myrtle Beach-area apartment complex.

Gunshots were heard just after midnight, witnesses told Horry County and Myrtle Beach police dispatchers. But officers didn’t discover the dead body until more than five hours later, when they found 42-year-old Mark Verhasselt dead from a gunshot wound in a parking lot at Magnolia North apartments , according to police reports and the Horry County Coroner’s Office.

A Horry County 911 call log shows the Myrtle Beach Police Department advised they had two callers report shots fired about 12:30 a.m. in the area where the victim was found.

Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea, in response to multiple questions from The Sun News, issued a news release Tuesday afternoon stating that both MBPD and HCPD received calls about shots fired early July 10.

Kruea also included recordings of the calls, confirming that a woman who initially called the HCPD non-emergency line was directed to call MBPD, which she did about three minutes later. She told MBPD that she heard five to six gunshots around Bovardia Place and there were people running, according to the recording. She advised she wanted police to come to the area to see if there were “any dead bodies lying around.”

MBPD also received a separate non-emergency call about 12:31 a.m. from a caller advising he heard about six gunshots around Bovardia Place, the press release states.

Kruea wrote that MBPD officers were dispatched to the area immediately and investigated the area along Wild Iris Drive from 48th Avenue North to 38th Avenue North, speaking with several people in the area, but found no evidence of a shooting or witnesses.

Wild Iris Drive is right along a jurisdictional split, with property southeast of the road, toward U.S. Highway 17, under patrol by MBPD, and property northwest, where the Magnolia North apartments are located, patrolled by HCPD.

Verhasselt’s body eventually was found in one of several parking lots across from a three-story condo complex.

Capt. Eric DiLorenzo with MBPD said in a statement that, though both callers mentioned Bovardia Place, which is within Horry County’s jurisdiction, the call takers did not provide this information to the dispatcher, who could not share it with officers.

“This illustrates the importance of knowing exactly where and in which jurisdiction you live,” Kruea said in the release. “It also illustrates the need for emergency personnel to be especially aware when multiple jurisdictions may be involved. This incident occurred near the boundary lines between the city and county. Had an accurate address or witness been available, the shooting location and victim would have been discovered more quickly.”

MBPD Chief Amy Prock and HCPD Chief Joe Hill have been in contact about this incident and will take additional measures to ensure call takers and emergency responders understand jurisdictional boundaries, according to the release.

Another comment on the county call log notes that a 911 dispatcher checked the call history and “did not locate any shots fired calls anywhere near this area.”

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Horry County 911 director Renee Hardwick, reached to try to understand the discrepancy and provide context to the log, referred The Sun News to county spokeswoman Kelly Moore.

Moore did not respond to calls and messages Monday seeking more information, but she called The Sun News Tuesday to say she had received the questions and was working to get answers hopefully by the end of day. She also acknowledged the confusing nature of the call log, which mistakenly listed the murder victim as a 911 caller.

Horry County police referred The Sun News to Horry County 911.

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Details of homicide investigation

The police report shows Horry County police were dispatched to the scene at 5:56 a.m. and arrived at 6:07 a.m.

When officers arrived at Bovardia Place, they found Verhasselt covered in blood and lying on the ground near the rear passenger side of a Chevy Silverado with both the driver and passenger doors open, authorities said.

Verhasselt’s time of death is around 12:30 a.m., said deputy coroner Michelle McSpadden, but that time could change as the investigation continues.

Matthew Isaiah Rivera and Marquis Shawn Brown were both arrested in North Carolina in connection to the murder and will be extradited to Horry County, authorities said.

Verhasselt was a person of interest in a Fayetteville Police Department disappearance case, Spectrum News reported in March.

David Weissman: @WeissmanMBO, 843-626-0305; Hannah Strong: 843-444-1765, @HannahLStrong

Horry County police investigators on the scene of a homicide investigation near Myrtle Beach Tuesday morning.

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