Gary Wayne Bennett

Gary Wayne Bennett

A jury found Gary Wayne Bennett innocent in the murder of Eva Marie Martin.

Bennett was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and first-degree burglary in connection to Martin's death.

Martin was found dead in her Little River Road home on May 23, 2000.

The jury also found Bennett not guilty on the other two charges of armed robbery and first degree burglary.

Although Bennett has proclaimed his innocence, he was originally convicted of murder and armed robbery on Aug. 14, 2002.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Bennett’s conviction was upheld by the appeals court, so he sought post-conviction relief, or PCR, to secure a new trial.

In his pursuit of PCR, Bennett said his trial attorney Johnny Gardner, who is now the Horry County Council chairman, had been ineffective.

Bennett was successful in 2014, leading to his new trial.

Originally, Bennett and a man named Andrew Lindsay were charged with the murder.

Lindsay received a plea deal that allowed him to admit to being an accessory after the fact.

Lindsay testified that he and Bennett were at Martin’s home when he overheard him killing her while he was in another room.

He also testified in Bennett’s retrial last week.

During his testimony last week, Lindsay claimed he saw Martin on the bed looking “half-dressed” with her pants halfway down.

Lindsay allegedly rolled Martin over by the shoulder and claimed he saw blood everywhere.

“There was blood just bubbling out of her neck,” he said.

Lindsay said Bennett kept yelling at him, saying, “he’ll take care of this.”

During closing arguments, the defense referred to Lindsay as "Lyin' Lindsay.” The defense said Lindsay changed his statement about the night of Martin's murder three separate times over the course of four days.

“Either you believe lying Andrew Lindsay or you don’t," defense attorney Aimee Zmroczek told the jury.

Assistant Solicitor Mary-Ellen Walter said Lindsay was the "perfect partner in crime" for Bennett due to a murder charge that Lindsay had in the early 1990s. 

Lindsay was convicted of murdering a woman in Illinois. He was initially set to serve a 15-year sentence but was paroled.

The prosecution said before Martin's murder, Bennett had grown “obsessed” with stealing money from the Taco Bell where Martin and Amber Vrooman, the mother of Bennett's child, worked.

“That plan led to the crimes he is charged with today," Walter said.

This story will be updated.

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