The man accused in the death of Angie Pipkin will be tried in a different court.
Randy Gale Robinson, 48, of Murrells Inlet, is charged with murder and obstructing justice in the 2014 death of Aynor woman Angie Pipkin. He remains at J. Reuben Detention Center without bond.
Administrative Judge Larry Hyman recused the 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office from the case because Chris Helms – an attorney who now works for the Solicitor's Office – used to work for the Public Defender's Office, according to a motion filed March 14.
However, out of an abundance of caution and to avoid even the appearance of any possible impropriety, I will recuse the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office from the prosecution of any case involving Mr. Helm’s prior clients where the penalty involves the possibility of a life sentence or the death penalty.
Administrative Judge Larry Hyman
Robinson’s defense attorney, Morgan Martin, filed a motion in December after Helms, who was previously a public defender on Robinson’s case, was hired to the Solicitor’s Office.
“We believe the mere fact that Helms and Robinson had a personal relationship is enough,” Martin said during a January bond hearing.
Helms met with Robinson once after Pipkin disappeared but before he was arrested, Helms said during court. Helms met Robinson through a mutual friend who knew Helms was working as a public defender, and Helms was eventually appointed to Robinson.
Helms met with Robinson again at J. Reuben Long Detention Center after Robinson was charged with murder, and they “discussed certain matters,” Helms said. That meeting was in April 2014, and the two spoke on the phone “several times” afterward, he said.
During that hearing, Judge Steven John closed the hearing to the public and media halfway through the hearing so Martin – Robinson’s attorney – could ask Helms what Robinson disclosed about the case. The hearing was closed for about 30 minutes.
Judge Hyman recused the Solicitor’s Office because of concern that Helms may be privy to confidential information about Robinson’s case, according to the motion.
“The court has received no information that Mr. Helms has divulged confidential information and makes no such finding,” the motion said. “However, out of an abundance of caution and to avoid even the appearance of any possible impropriety, I will recuse the [Solicitor’s Office].”
Hyman also said the Solicitor’s Office should be recused because of the possibility of a life sentence or death penalty for Robinson, according to the motion.
It’s been two years and I just hope that whenever the trial comes, it’ll be taken care of.
Taylor Pipkin, daughter of Angie Pipkin
“It’s certainly one [a case] we would’ve liked to have handled,” Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said.
He pointed out that the judge recused his office on the appearance of impropriety, not impropriety itself.
“I can tell you with absolute certainty that I’ve never talked to him [Chris Helms] about past cases,” Richardson said.
Hyman signed an order recusing Robinson’s case along with two others. The two others are tied together and are co-defendants in a manslaughter case; however, Helms only represented one of the co-defendants in the case, Richardson said, and he isn’t concerned that there will be issues with any of Helms’ other past cases.
Authorities filed Robinson’s obstruction charge after they said on Jan. 26, 2014 Robinson gave false, misleading or inaccurate information about Pipkin’s disappearance and his activities during the evening of Jan. 16, 2014, when Pipkin was last seen, police said.
Pipkin was reported missing by her mother, who told police that Pipkin’s father took her to the IGA grocery store in Aynor to meet a friend, and Robinson is listed in the original police report, but it is not clear if he was the friend Pipkin was planning to meet.
Her remains were found in May 2014 in a Florence County wooded area at a private hunting camp about five miles south of the U.S. 76 bridge over the Great Pee Dee River.
Claire Byun: 843-626-0381, @Claire_TSN