Crime

Discovery of elderly man’s hidden remains spurs accusations, charges — and many questions

Wife charged after husband’s remains found hidden beneath home wrapped in plastic

Irene Clodfelter is charged with crimes in connection with her husband's death. Police say that she wrapped her husband, Hubert Clodfelter's remains in plastic bags and concealed his body beneath a home he owned at Myrtle Beach Travel Park.
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Irene Clodfelter is charged with crimes in connection with her husband's death. Police say that she wrapped her husband, Hubert Clodfelter's remains in plastic bags and concealed his body beneath a home he owned at Myrtle Beach Travel Park.

A 74-year-old woman, an 84-year-old man, a missing person’s case and remains found under a Myrtle Beach house.

Irene and Hubert Clodfelter, of Murrells Inlet, seemed to neighbors to be a happy couple. They exchanged cookies and never caused problems. To Hubert’s children, though, their stepmother is “deceptive,” cold and not caring who she hurt. Today, Irene faces several charges in connection to Hubert’s killing.

Many of the case details remain unknown and few are talking about the case, but here is what is known so far.

Who were they?

Hubert Clodfelter was a vibrant 84-year-old, his family said. He drove an RV and ran a 31-unit mobile home park. Hubert attended church and visited his children and grandchildren, his family said.

Irene Clodfelter, 74, was married to Hubert for the past 15 years. She was not his first wife. Irene Clodfelter, standing about 5-foot-6, wore thick, blacked-framed glasses on her head — not on her eyes — during a recent court hearing.

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Georgetown County Sheriff's Office

The couple lived in a two-story, red-brick house on Columbine Court in Murrells Inlet’s Ellington at Wachesaw Plantation. A white pickup truck in the driveway on Monday was the only evidence someone lived in the house.

Neighbor Melanie Emery said their families exchanged Christmas cookies and waves when they saw each other.

“They were really nice,” Emery said.

Reported missing?

It had been months since Hubert’s two daughters from his first marriage had spoken to their father. The daughters, Karen and Linda, live out of state.

The sisters traveled to Georgetown County on March 12 and spoke to Irene Clodfelter, who said Hubert was in town over the past weekend, according to a police report. Irene Clodfelter told the daughters she didn’t want future welfare checks until the end of the the month.

Two days later, Hubert Clodfelter’s daughter Karen Chappell reported to law enforcement that her father was missing, according to a Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office police report.

“In these two years of trying to get in touch with Dad, I called several times a week,” Chappell said. “[I] spoke to Irene on multiple occasions and asked to visit every several months and at times I begged her, I begged her, I begged her ‘Please have Dad call us. Just have Dad call us.’

“‘Oh no. He doesn’t want to be with his family anymore, [Chappell recalled Irene Clodfelter telling her]. He’s mad about this or he’s mad about that or he’s traveling in an RV. I begged her ‘just have him call us.’”

The woman charged in connection to the killing of an 85-year-old Murrells Inlet man and reported missing appeared in Horry County for a bond hearing on Tuesday. Irene Clodfelter was charged in the case.

Every time Chappell suggested visiting Murrells Inlet, Irene Clodfelter claimed Hubert wasn’t there. Chappell said she sent cards and gifts and hoped her Dad would respond.

“Irene was able to weave stories that were so believable to me and my sister using information that was gleaned from 15 years of marriage to my dad,” Chappell said.

One of the last lies Irene Clodfelter told was that Hubert was in legal trouble and running from police, Chappell said. The family believes Irene Clodfelter told the story to make them feel shame for their father and to stop contacting him.

On June 14, the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office for the first time asked the public to help find Hubert Clodfelter. The sheriff’s office has declined to say why it took months to send out a news release.

Hubert’s remains were found the same day.

The murder?

The details of Hubert Clodfelter’s killing remain somewhat secretive. Horry County Deputy Coroner Patty Bellamy said they have not determined the cause or manner of his death.

Chief Deputy Scott Hixson said Hubert did not die of “natural means,” but did not elaborate about the manner of death.

Irene Clodfelter says her son is to blame for the killing, but officials believe he may have died months ago. If he did kill Hubert, details of why and how may never be determined.

The cover up?

Arrest warrants say Irene Clodfelter admitted to covering up the crime. She faces two counts of obstruction of justice in Georgetown County. In Horry County, police charged her with desecration of human remains and accessory after the fact to murder.

Each of the charges is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Irene Clodfelter told police she found her husband’s remains on May 28 under their beach home in the Myrtle Beach travel park, according to the warrants. She wrapped Hubert’s body in plastic bags and put wrapping tape around the plastic.

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A home in the Myrtle Beach travel park sits quiet on Monday. Over the weekend human remains were found in the residence, police say. Josh Bell Jbell@thesunnews.com

Hubert’s daughters found the remains on June 14, decomposing, underneath the house. They reported the findings to the police, who went to the park and removed several items from under the porch, neighbors said.

“I will never forget that horrible feeling when the deputies told us, ‘It’s a body,’” Chappell said.

Neighbors also said they saw Irene at the beach house days before police arrived, sitting on the deck reading a book.

Irene Clodfelter continued to receive money from Hubert Clodfelter’s business that she used to support her lifestyle, according to the warrants. She also reportedly asked tenants to start writing rent checks payable to her.

Irene Clodfelter’s attorney John Hillard said they planned a vigorous defense in the case, but did not hint at the details. He did not respond to follow-up calls in time for this report.

Next steps?

Irene Clodfelter is free on $250,000 bond for her charges in Georgetown and Horry counties. There were no special bond conditions — such as home confinement or electronic monitoring.

If Irene Clodfelter wants a preliminary hearing, she must make that request in the next week. Preliminary hearings allow a judge to determine if probable cause exists in a case. Solicitors present evidence, physical and testimony, to show why they believe a defendant committed a crime.

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Irene Clodfelter weeps quietly in at her bond hearing at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway. Josh Bell jbell@thesunnews.com

The hearing is typically procedural step as probable cause needs to exist for police to obtain an arrest warrant. But, it’s an opportunity for a second judge to approve the arrest.

If the judge finds probable cause, the case is bond over — meaning it will be presented to the grand jury. Grand jury proceedings are secret as the panel hears evidence and decides if there should be a formal charge, called an indictment. Grand juries in South Carolina counties meet once a month.

As Irene Clodfelter awaits those steps, she already has her first general session court appearance scheduled for Aug. 6. That will be the first time she goes before a circuit court judge in the Conway courthouse.

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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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