The former friend of a man charged in a 20-year-old murder said he watched his cohort scour through the bloodied victim's belongings on the night she was killed.
Gary Wayne Bennett’s retrial continued Thursday as Andrew Lindsay, Bennett’s former coworker, testified before the jury.
Bennett is accused of killing Eva Marie Martin, who was found dead in her Little River Road home on May 23, 2000. Her throat was slit and her pants had been pulled down. Bennett maintains he is innocent.
Lindsay, who was a friend of Bennett’s and a coworker at a pest control company, was initially charged with Martin’s murder along with Bennett.
Lindsay received a plea deal that allowed him to admit to being an accessory after the fact. He was previously convicted of murdering a woman in Illinois in the 1990s.
Originally, Lindsay was set to serve a 15-year sentence for second-degree murder in Illinois but was paroled.
After that, he moved to Utah, where he met his future wife Tera. Lindsay and his wife eventually moved to South Carolina after Lindsay’s wife reconnected with her biological father, who was a retired police officer in the Conway area.
When Lindsay moved to an area outside of Conway, he got a job at Lane’s Pest Control. That’s when he met Bennett.
“We started hanging out and became friends,” Lindsay said.
Once the two became friends, that’s when trouble started.
Assistant Solicitor Mary-Ellen Walter has said that while the two worked at the pest control company, Bennett and Lindsay would take others’ money and belongings.
“We would be taking quarters, and it got around that we were taking money out of the rooms,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said he and Bennett would stake out homes every weekend at a particular resort in Garden City Beach.
This went on for “quite a while”, Lindsay said.
“We would find homes that were empty and wait for people to leave.”
Lindsay was fired from the pest control company but then got a job at Myrtle Beach National Golf.
While working there, Lindsay played golf with Bennett “a few times," he said.
During some of those rounds, Lindsay testified, the two discussed a plan to rob a Surfside Beach area Taco Bell where Martin and the mother of Bennett’s child, Amber Vrooman, worked.
“Gary was saying that we could get in there and take the money easily,” Lindsay said. “He would say that there was ten to twelve thousand dollars to take.”
The prosecution contends Bennett grew “obsessed” with stealing money from the Taco Bell.
Lindsay said he and Bennett would watch the night managers leave the restaurant. The two planned on putting an out of order sign at the bank and would follow a night manager home. They never followed through with following a night manager home, Lindsay said.
At the time, Martin had no knowledge of the two’s plan to rob the Taco Bell, according to court testimony.
The prosecution said at one point Bennett told Martin of his planned robbery but that she refused to take part.
Lindsay claims Martin didn’t plan on turning the two in but did want to be compensated for the cost of remaking the restaurant key.
Eventually, Bennett was able to take Martin’s keys to the restaurant and made copies, but he and Lindsay did not have the safe combination.
When being questioned by the prosecution, Lindsay commented on the relationship between Martin and Bennett.
Lindsay said Martin was trying to convince Vrooman to leave Bennett and that this upset Bennett.
That discussion, he said, led to the events of the night Martin was killed.
According to Lindsay, Bennett directed him to Martin’s home on Little River Road.
Lindsay drove his Buick LeSabre to Martin’s home while Bennett’s daughter, who was a toddler at the time, was in the back seat, Lindsay testified.
When they pulled into Martin’s driveway, Martin’s car wasn’t there.
They drove to a church up the street and waited a few minutes before going back to Martin’s home and seeing she was there.
Bennett went into the home while Lindsay waited in the car, Lindsay said. After a few minutes, Lindsay made his way to the front door and Bennett let him into the home.
Lindsay said Bennett and Martin seemed to be having a friendly conversation, despite the fact that Bennett was trying to convince Martin to give up the combination to the Taco Bell safe.
“She didn’t want to give up the combination,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said he asked Martin if he could call his wife, who was working a shift at a local K-Mart that night. He went into the kitchen to call her and could still hear Martin and Bennett’s conversation. While Lindsay attempted to reach his wife, he said, he could hear Bennett and Martin’s voices being raised.
That’s when the discussion changed to Martin and her trying to convince Vrooman to leave Bennett due to issues at home and with money.
“It was getting heated,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay claims he heard Bennett tell Martin, “Marie, you need to stay out of our relationship and let us work things out.”
That’s when Bennett came into the kitchen, Lindsay said.
He said he heard Martin call out from the living room that the he and Bennett “just need to go.”
Lindsay added Bennett was incredibly agitated and didn’t hear Martin anymore.
“Gary said ‘I’ll take care of this and walked out of [the kitchen],’” Lindsay said.
After failing to remember the phone number of the K-Mart his wife worked at, Lindsay said he went into the living room and waited for a few minutes.
That’s when he said he heard something that “sounded like a scuffle” coming from the back of the home.
After a few more minutes and calling out for Bennett, Lindsay said he went down the hall and entered Martin’s bedroom.
Upon entry, Lindsay said, Bennett was on top of the bed.
When Lindsay asked Bennett what was going on, he said Bennett told him, “Don’t worry about it” and was tearing up the room.
Lindsay allegedly saw Martin on the bed looking “half-dressed” and saw that her pants were halfway down. Lindsay claimed that when he rolled Martin over by the shoulder, he saw blood everywhere.
“There was blood just bubbling out of her neck,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said Bennett kept yelling at him, saying, “he’ll take care of this.”
Lindsay left through the back door and made it back to his car where Bennett’s daughter was still sleeping.
Bennett eventually came out of the home and got into Lindsay’s car holding a plastic grocery bag that contained a knife, bloody towel and purse.
Lindsay took Bennett to a convenience store to “get cleaned up” and noted that Bennett’s hands were “a bit red from the blood.”
On the way there, Bennett was going through the purse that he took from Martin’s home, checking “each and every pocket there was.”
There was a heated discussion on the way home between Lindsay and Bennett.
“It was chaotic,” Lindsay said.
The two had made plans for later that night with each other and their wives, Lindsay said. Lindsay eventually called Bennett to cancel those plans.
“I wasn’t in the mood to go out that night,” Lindsay said. “At that point, I didn’t want to be near Gary, and I didn’t want Tera to be near him.”
Lindsay said he never told his wife that night what happened at Martin’s home.
Martin’s roommate discovered Martin’s body that night and called the police.
Lindsay got a phone call from Bennett several hours later at about 3 a.m., Bennett said something happened to Martin. Bennett called Lindsay about three to four hours later and said Marie had been attacked.
Lindsay didn’t go to the police at the time.
“We were involved with criminal activity at the time,” Lindsay admitted. “I wanted to keep quiet about it. I wanted it to go away.”
Three months later, Lindsay took part in several burglaries. Lindsay was questioned about the burglaries but didn’t immediately serve time. After receiving a phone call from Bennett and hearing that he was in jail, Lindsay decided that he “needed to be gone.”
According to Lindsay, it was Vrooman who had led police to arrest Bennett on charges connected to numerous burglaries.
“He said that he got into a fight with Amber and that she came home around 11, 12 o’clock at night with police,” Lindsay said, adding that Vrooman pointed out numerous items in the home that had been stolen.
Bennett had called Lindsay to ask for his help bailing him out of jail, Lindsay testified.
Lindsay said he didn’t “have the money” to bail Bennett out of jail nor did he know what Bennett’s bail was set at.
Bennett told Lindsay that he needed to “take care of Amber,” Lindsay claimed.
When Lindsay asked him to elaborate, the response scared Lindsay and made him feel threatened, he said.
“He said, ‘I’m gonna take care of Amber like I did Marie,’” Lindsay said.
Bennett added that he was going to “clean this all up,” according to Lindsay.
Lindsay said he viewed the “clean it all up“ comment from Bennett as a threat toward him, and that’s when he planned to leave the state.
Lindsay left for Utah but stopped in Arizona to see his brother. It was in Arizona where Lindsay was arrested in connection to numerous burglaries back in South Carolina. Two detectives from South Carolina had come out west to ask Lindsay about Martin’s death.
“They said they knew I was there with Gary,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said gave a statement but didn’t place himself inside the trailer.
When he was brought back to South Carolina for his trial, Lindsay said he saw Bennett at the courthouse. Bennett told Lindsay that there wasn’t enough evidence against the two.
“He was telling me that I needed to go back and make a statement that I didn’t know anything,” Lindsay said.
When Lindsay tried to take back his original statement, things got heated with officers.
“[They] told me that I told them things about the crime that they didn’t know about,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said his wife begged him to tell the truth.
He said he did and accepted a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact and served a 15-year prison sentence, getting out in 2013.
Bennett is being tried on charges of murder, armed robbery, first-degree burglary and conspiracy to kidnap.
He was convicted of murder and armed robbery on Aug. 14, 2002. Bennett 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 that began this week.
The trial continued Thursday afternoon. Check back for updates.