Crime

Two suspects in August murder at Longs Food Lion request bond

Despite pleas of innocence, a judge rejected bond for a man accused of murdering a person in a Longs Food Lion parking lot nearly a year ago.

Accused killer Stephon Miller was in Horry County court on Friday for a bond hearing. Judge William Seals rejected his request. The judge also rejected bail for Rodney Gore, who police charged with being an accessory to murder.

Miller’s defense attorney Brad Richardson said the only statements connecting Miller to the case is from an informant, who is part of a gang.

“There is little-to-no evidence,” Richardson said.

Senior Assistant Solicitor Mary Ellen Walter said a judge not only signed off on Miller’s arrest warrant, but also found probable cause in the case.

Miller, Gore and James Bellamy were all charged in connection with the shooting of Gerard Celentano, 57, in August 2018. They fled the scene and are accused of committing a series of robberies, officials have said.

Police say the suspects also tried to force a store employee in the parking lot to unlock the Food Lion store.

Officers were later called to the Carolina Inn off U.S. 701 around 11 p.m. for a reported robbery. An employee said two people entered, pointed a gun at him and demanded money. The suspects were described as two black men wearing black shirts and blue pants with black shirts covering their faces except for their eyes, according to a police report. The suspects fled the hotel in a Nissan Altima.

A short time later, officers responded to a report of a strong-armed robbery on Fox Bay Road. That robbery happened about 3 miles from the Carolina Inn.

The victim’s truck broke down along the road, and he said two black men pulled up next to him. The suspects brandished handguns and took the victim’s phone and wallet and fled the area. The victim described the suspect’s vehicle as a dark color Dodge Dart, according to a police report.

Officers also say the suspects committed a robbery at the Sun-Do convenience store in Chadbourn, North Carolina, around 11:20 p.m. An employee said he saw a gray sedan pull into the lot, and then two black men rushed into the store with their guns drawn. Video surveillance showed two men wearing dark clothing with their faces covered. They forced customers to the ground at gunpoint and took the register as they fled the store.

Celentano’s daughter, Alexarae Rizzo, spoke during Friday’s hearings and said nothing could prepare her for the call telling her that her dad was murdered.

“I would like to express that he was the most amazing, honest and hardworking man I ever met,” Rizzo said.

She asked the court to deny bond until there is further evidence in the case.

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Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.
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