A man charged in connection to a murder and armed robbery spree this month, had similar charges dropped weeks earlier when Horry County prosecutors determined there wasn’t enough for trial.
On Wednesday, Horry County police charged James Laverne Bellamy, of Tabor City, North Carolina, with murder, three counts of kidnapping, two counts of armed robbery and two counts of use of a deadly weapon during a violent crime.
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The charges are in connection to the shooting and killing of a 57-year-old in the parking lot of the Longs Food Lion on Aug. 15 and a robbery at the Carolina Inn an hour later. Police say charges are pending for an alleged robbery of a broken-down motorist on Fox Bay Road the same day.
The spree also continued into North Carolina where Bellamy and others robbed a convenience store, according to police.
In April, Horry County police arrested Bellamy and charged him in connection with two 2016 armed robberies. One was at a Dollar General on Cloverleaf Drive in Longs. According to arrest warrants, Bellamy and others took cash from the store. One of the suspects pointed a gun at the victims. The suspect also forced the victims into an office while the gunmen fled.
Other charges were in connection to a robbery at the Tiger Mart, 104 East Highway 9 in Longs, where Bellamy is alleged to have stolen a victim’s car.
Bellamy faced more than a dozen counts, including kidnapping and armed robbery.
He pleaded guilty to one count in July, and all other charges were dismissed. A judge sentenced Bellamy to 18 months’ probation with credit for 95 days served in jail.
Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said there was not enough evidence to move those 2016 cases forward. Witnesses could not be located or were unwilling to help prosecutors.
“It looked razor thin,” Richardson said.
When police make an arrest, Richardson said, they only need probable cause. He described it as being 51 percent sure someone committed a crime. But, for a conviction from a jury, that percent needs to be around 85 percent, Richardson said.
Richardson said the state already has a stronger case against Bellamy for the recent murder and armed-robbery spree than in the 2016 incidents.
Solicitors respond to every case involving a death and Richardson said they’ve worked with Horry County Police since the shooting. Officers worked 14-hour shifts as they investigated the case, Richardson said.
It took two years to charge Bellamy in Horry County as he served a prison term in North Carolina, the solicitor said. According to North Carolina Department of Public Safety records, Bellamy initially was sentenced on a robbery charge in September 2016 and released in April. His parole status is listed as “absconded.”