John Gallman will face state Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, in next week’s runoff for the District 33 seat.
Throughout the campaign, Gallman has criticized Rankin’s nearly three-decade record as liberal and weak: soft on anti-abortion measures, supportive of the gas tax hike, and entangled in the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project.
Gallman’s supporters have hailed him as a staunch family values conservative who can finally oust a former Democrat. And he’s come close, finishing just over 1,000 votes behind the incumbent last week and forcing the runoff on June 23.
But hundreds of pages of court documents paint a different picture of Gallman. Those documents describe a physically and emotionally abusive husband who beat his wife in front of their child, broke her finger and even hired a private investigator to track her movements after their divorce.
Gallman, 44, has never been charged with a crime in connection with these incidents. In two instances when police were called about the couple’s disputes, his then-wife declined to pursue charges. But he lost custody of his children last year, with a judge expressing concerns about his behavior.
Despite the allegations in court records, Gallman maintains he never intentionally hurt his ex-wife and he is the victim of a system stacked against fathers.
“That’s not true,” he said of the abuse allegations. “That’s absolutely not true. That’s 100% inaccurate.”
Rankin was also previously married and divorced. His court records are sealed.
Ten years of marriage
Gallman met his former wife, who has remarried and is now known as Sarah Price, when he was the youth pastor at the church her family attended.
When they married, he was 32 and she was 22.
Gallman and Price divorced in 2017 after 10 years of marriage. But even before the divorce, Gallman had a history of conflict with his family, according to public records.
Notes from a Children’s Recovery Center interview show that Gallman’s minor daughter alleged he had hit her mom on more than one occasion, and that he would frequently yell at her.
Gallman also hired a private investigator to follow his ex-wife for several months during their custody battle.
While working for Gallman, the investigator put a tracking device on Price’s vehicle and frequently took pictures of her and the former couple’s children in an effort to document what Gallman alleged was irresponsible behavior.
Price, who is engaged in current litigation with Gallman, declined to comment.
When a judge gave sole custody of their two children to Price in October 2019, Gallman was ordered not to have contact with them.
“The Court is concerned that the minor daughter has been subjected to ridicule by a paternal relative for not substantiating the alleged abuse as stated by the father,” the judge wrote in her order, referring to Gallman. “The minor daughter has expressed discontent with the father as to his actions.”
Gallman’s history of conflict with his ex-wife goes back to at least 2014, according to records obtained by myhorrynews.com, which is basing this report on public court records including interview notes, police reports and third-party affidavits in order to avoid relying purely on Price or Gallman’s narratives. Myhorrynews.com is not naming Gallman’s minor children to protect their privacy.
Police reports detail at least two instances in which Gallman allegedly became violent, according to his ex-wife’s statements to officers.
The earliest documented evidence of alleged violence contained in public records was in July 2014, according to a report from the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office.
An incident report from the altercation says officers responded to the Gallman home in Hodge, South Carolina, in response to an argument between the couple. Gallman and Price both called police. Price, then known as Sarah Gallman, took the children and left the house before officers arrived.
The incident report says John Gallman told officers they had a verbal altercation, while Price told officers that Gallman began to “chase” her while outside, “grabbed her by the hair and pushed her around,” and that he “drug her into the garage and threw her into the door.” Neither one pressed charges.
Price’s friend Kira Payne backed up the account in a 2017 report by guardian ad litem Deborah Dantzler, saying she got a “panicky” call from Price who told her she was fleeing their lake house in Greenwood after Gallman “dragged her across the yard by her hair in front of the children.” Gallman disputes the accuracy of the GAL report.
Price told Gallman that if he gave her the keys, she would not call 911, but she did call 911 as she was leaving the scene and later told police their “children observed the whole incident,” according to the sheriff’s office report.
Gallman denied becoming physical with his ex-wife.
“I’m the one that called the police first,” he said during an interview at his home, which was decorated with pictures of his children. “And I gave her the keys so she could leave. On the 911 log, she tells them the only way she got the keys is because I gave them to her in exchange for her not calling the police. If that is in fact true, as soon as I gave her the keys, then why would I call the police?”
Gallman also provided a picture stored on his phone that he said showed him with his children at a zoo following the incident.
“If you took my children and left because I’ve abused you, how did I get them back?” Gallman asked. “Would a mother that’s concerned about a man beating a woman give the children back to them less than a week later? She could have taken the children and gone anywhere because we were not divorced.”
The conflicts didn’t end with the Greenwood County incident.
In June of 2015, Horry County police responded to another dispute between the couple at their home near Myrtle Beach. The police report says the argument was over “notes [Price] found on [Gallman’s] cell phone that were saved from previous arguments and incidents involving his children.”
At one point in the disagreement, the couple was fighting over a cellphone when Price’s finger was broken, according to an incident report and medical records.
Gallman told officers that after he “grabbed his cellphone from [Price]” she grabbed his shirt sleeve and “laid on the floor while still holding on to his shirt causing bruising to his arm,” according to an incident report.
Price told officers that when Gallman “grabbed her hand in an attempt to take her cell phone,” he “twisted her hand and she ended up on the ground,” breaking her finger in the process, the incident report said.
Price told officers she could “only assume he did it intentionally,” the report says, but again, neither party pressed charges. An officer told Price that the case would be presented for warrants due to her accusation that the break was intentional, but no judge signed off on it and Gallman wasn’t charged.
Price’s current husband, Chris Price, who was working with her at the time of the accident but hadn’t started dating her yet, said in an affidavit that he remembered her “coming to work with a broken finger which she said was caused by John taking her phone.”
In his interview, Gallman denied breaking her finger intentionally, and presented photos stored on his phone of his arm with bruises where he said Price had grabbed him.
“She didn’t cry, she didn’t squeal, she didn’t say ‘you hurt me’ when I jerked away,” Gallman said. “She left and then I’m like ‘OK.’”
Again, both Gallman and Price called police, with Gallman calling first. He wanted the incident documented.
He said he called police for the June 2015 finger-breaking incident because “they give out criminal domestic violence charges like candy,” because it creates business for attorneys.
After he called police, an officer asked if he wanted to press charges against Price, whom he accused of grabbing him and causing bruises.
“If I had abused her or broken her finger, I would not have called the police,” Gallman said. “I wanted it documented. The police said to me, ‘We could arrest her for CDV.’ I was like ‘No, no no, I don’t want you to go arrest her. I just want it documented.’”
A letter from David Lee at Strand Orthopaedic Consultants disputed the idea that Sarah Gallman fractured her finger while twisting her hand.
After reviewing X-rays, Lee wrote, “I feel it is improbable that a twisting type injury could have occurred which was stated by the patient’s husband. It is more consistent type of fracture with a bending type of mechanism causing the fracture.”
Gallman disputed the letter and questioned Lee’s ability to make an assessment because he wasn’t a doctor, but a physical therapist.
“He’s completely unqualified to make that kind of assessment,” Gallman said.
Lee’s letter identified himself as a physician assistant, which are medical professionals licensed to practice under the supervision of a physician.
Dantzler wrote in the guardian ad litem report that while Sarah Price didn’t think Gallman would intentionally hurt their kids, she “is afraid for them because of his explosive temper.”
A detailed report
The GAL report was based on interviews with 25 people close to the couple, including family and friends, teachers, coaches, co-workers and medical professionals, as well as other pieces of supplementing evidence. Dantzler began doing interviews in September of 2016 and completed her final report in June of 2017.
Other witnesses appearing in the guardian ad litem report also expressed concerns about Gallman’s temper. Four potential witnesses “asked at the beginning of a phone call whether [Gallman] would find out what was said,” Dantzler wrote. “They expressed fear of retribution by him if he did not like what they said.”
Dantzler talked to both Gallman and Price for the report, as well as teachers, friends and the children.
Their son’s kindergarten teacher at St. Andrew Catholic School, Jennifer Kosydar, said in the GAL report that once Price and Gallman began keeping the children separately on alternating weeks their son “began to show a very sad demeaner. On [Gallman]’s weeks he frequently had not completed his homework and would come to school without his snack. On Wednesdays the children are required to wear a dressier uniform because they attend mass. Often son was not wearing the correct uniform.”
Dantzler also wrote, citing Kosyday, that Gallman’s daughter “would be wearing the wrong uniform on [Gallman]’s week.”
Gallman said the situation with the wrong uniforms didn’t happen on his watch.
“It didn’t happen when they were with me,” he said. “The school would have not known who they were with or who they were not with. It was not an ongoing issue with the school. The report was completely inaccurate.”
According to the GAL report, teacher Noreen Hancheck said the pair’s son was more serious and quieter than normal during Gallman’s time, an observation also supported by the school nurse, Jenna Cunningham.
Dantzler wrote that Cunningham was worried about Gallman’s “emotional well-being,” and said he could “come unhinged in no time. As a result, she will not allow her children to play at [Gallman’s] house.”
After Dantzler’s report came out, Gallman sued Cunningham for defamation. The case is still pending.
Price’s friend, Payne, who lived next door to Gallman, also had concerns, the report said.
“Kira Payne is afraid of [Gallman’s] temper,” Dantzler wrote. “She has seen him go from zero to sixty in a split second. She is afraid for her children to be alone with him.”
Dantzler said Payne remembered several times that she was in the couple’s house when Gallman would come home from work, and he “demanded dead silence so he could unwind, and [Price] and children complied.”
The school’s principal at the time, Debbie Wilfong, said that Gallman’s attitude towards the school and staff had deteriorated during the course of the divorce proceedings, according to the GAL report.
After the interim guardian ad litem report came out, Dantzler wrote, Gallman began challenging school staff about the contents of the report, accusing school staffers of conspiring with Price’s attorney, a charge Wilfong denied.
“[Wilfong] told [Gallman] that some parents had complained to her that they were uncomfortable with him being around their children,” Dantzler said in the report, adding that after one “unproductive” conversation, Wilfong “finally told him that she would no longer meet with him without a priest or a lawyer present.”
Gallman said the characterizations of him having a hot temper with school staff is “not true at all, and I don’t think the principal would tell you that was true. What did happen – and then I never went back – I asked to get records from the school.
“What the school did do, when I wanted to get records, did not get me records.”
Wilfong, reached by phone, did not dispute the report, and the Diocese of Charleston said in a statement that “Pricipal Wilfong stands by the comments attributed to her in the guardian ad litem report.”
Rankin appears in Gallman’s file
Gallman’s opponent, Luke Rankin, and former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride also appear in the report.
On March 11, 2017, Gallman was taking his kids to his son’s soccer game when he turned too sharply and wrecked his vehicle, the GAL report said. Gallman’s right front tire blew out and the car rolled onto the driver’s side. The children were wearing seatbelts but had to crawl out the back.
The report says that a neighbor took the kids to the soccer game. After the game, the report says Price texted Gallman to tell him the kids needed to go to the hospital, to which Gallman replied that he would take them if they needed to go.
Price texted again to say she was taking them to a Doctor’s Care location, Dantzler wrote. Price said in the report that the staff at the Doctor’s Care where she took the kids told her she should take them to a hospital emergency room, which she did.
Dantzler wrote that “disorder at the hospital ensued. [Gallman] was angry that [Price] had brought the children to the hospital.”
The report said a nurse tried to soothe Gallman, explaining to him that “I would be upset if my kids were in a wreck and taken to a soccer match if they had not been checked out.” Dantzler wrote the comment “infuriated [Gallman] even further.”
Dantzler said she reviewed police body cameras from officers who were already at the hospital for a different incident, and said the videos showed Gallman talking in a loud voice outside the emergency room examination rooms, claiming that Price was “posturing.”
Gallman said in an interview that Price was also at the soccer game, and was aware of the accident, but didn’t take the kids to the hospital right away. And he repeated the accusations contained in the GAL report that Price was posturing.
Gallman said when he got to the hospital, he was met by a social worker asking him about the accident.
“The social worker says, ‘We’re going to have to call DSS in,’” Gallman said. “I said ‘Not a problem, I’m going to sit right here until DSS comes… But I want to make sure that you note the Happy Meal boxes that are sitting on the beds where my two children are sitting.’ Mom was so concerned about the children she had time to go get Happy Meals before she brought them to the hospital. Thank God I was able to stay in my thinking and thank God my kids brought the Happy Meal boxes.”
Dantzler wrote Gallman told police that Rankin could vouch for him.
The report said Gallman told officers that “the presidents of DR Horton and Raymond James, and Luke Rankin rode by the accident, and they can say the children were not hurt.”
Gallman confirmed the account in an interview.
At the time, he said, they lived in the same neighborhood.
“I don’t recall that at all, and I was shocked to read my name when someone showed me that ad litem report,” Rankin said. “He lives in the neighborhood, and there was a lot of talk about it. A lot of buzz by folks in the neighborhood. I later heard neighbors talking about it given his run for office.”
One officer at the hospital tried to help Gallman understand why Price wanted the kids checked out, Dantzler wrote in the report, “by saying ‘God forbid your kids collapsed on the soccer field.’ [Gallman] launched into a tirade saying ‘Do you know what it is like being discriminated against because I am a man trying to get access to his children? I have spent $200,000 in attorney’s fees.’ Then he said he had called Mark McBride to come to the hospital.”
Gallman also “threatened the police that he was going to call Warren Gall, the [Myrtle Beach] chief of police,” Dantzler wrote. She did not report any injuries as a result of the wreck.
At the end of the guardian ad litem report, Dantzler said Price was not immune from poor judgement, citing Price’s request for Gallman to bring the children from their Greenwood County house in the upstate back to her house in the Myrtle Beach Pine Lakes neighborhood after Hurricane Matthew, even though her home didn’t have power yet.
And on one occasion in February of 2016, Dantzler wrote that Price was found sleeping in her car one morning after a Feb. 4 work dinner when she mixed a pill with several glasses of wine. Price said in the GAL report that she didn’t go home because she didn’t want to deal with any arguing that she thought would ensue upon her arrival. She said it “was probably her lowest point,” and accepted responsibility, calling it “a major mistake.”
Dantzler also said Price needed to do a better job of standing up to Gallman in order to be treated as an equal, but she criticized Gallman’s framing of the divorce litigation.
Gallman “has consistently framed nearly every issue as if it were solely about him,” Dantzler wrote. “For example, from his perspective anything less than him having equal time with the children is not fair to him. He refuses to even consider the possibility that frequent movements between households might be difficult for children especially during the school year.”
She added, “everything is about him and how persecuted and mistreated he has been. While he occasionally uses words or phrases like ‘fighting for my children’ or ‘in my children’s best interests,’ they are generally in the context about what is ‘fair’ to him.”
In an interview, Gallman repeatedly denied the allegations that he had an intense temper, and said if it were true, he wouldn’t have gotten 50% custody under the divorce arrangement finalized in 2017.
“If that were true to any extent, the guardian would not have allowed me to have 50/50 custody,” Gallman said. “Her attorney would not have allowed me to have 50/50 custody, the judge would not have allowed me to have 50/50 custody. It was a consent agreement. I didn’t even have to go into court and argue to win that. There was a deal that was agreed to outside of the courtroom through a consent agreement. The guardian testified in court that she had no problem with the arrangement.”
The couple was officially divorced on June 12, 2017, following more than a year of separation, according to a court order, and they got shared custody.
“I just wanted to be a daddy to my children,” Gallman said. “That’s all I wanted.”
But the estranged couple’s conflict didn’t end there.
On Dec. 17, 2018, Price filed a complaint asking for sole custody of their children, due to Gallman’s behavior, alleging numerous instances of Gallman harassing and threatening members of her family while becoming hostile and confrontational.
An affidavit by Price’s husband, Chris Price, also alleged similar behavior.
Court records show that Gallman hired a private investigator on May 6, 2019, who began following Price and her family on May 9. The next day, records show the investigator put a tracker on Price’s vehicle, and tracked Price and her family until early August of 2019.
While working for Gallman, records show the investigator frequently took pictures of Price and her children, and claimed to have evidence of Price drinking before driving with the children, falling asleep while the kids were in the pool, and speeding with the kids in her vehicle.
The investigator also claimed that Price was letting her kids play in stormwater runoff near the ocean during a time of elevated bacteria levels, but a photo purporting to prove the claim showed the kids playing in a pool of water running parallel to the ocean surf. It’s unclear from the photo if the pool of water was connected to a storm runoff drain.
Gallman paid the investigator $13,744 for her work, according to billing records.
Judge Jan Bromell-Holmes awarded Price temporary sole custody of their children on Oct. 11, following an incident where Gallman didn’t turn over their children during a scheduled exchange on Sept. 8, and alleged without evidence that their children were being abused.
Records show no evidence that Price or her husband abused her children, and the kids never made any allegations of abuse against their mother. Gallman’s daughter, however, made several allegations in a Children’s Recovery Center interview that her father was physically and emotionally abusing her mother.
The night of Sept. 3, Gallman took their daughter to the Medical University of Charleston. Court records show he was concerned about a recurring pattern of bruises.
Records contained in the court filings show he brought his daughter to MUSC for “alleged child abuse.”
He also called police to report his concerns, even though he told officers that the children had made no claims of abuse or maltreatment.
According to records from MUSC, the “patient denies any causes of bruising included anyone hitting her. Gets along with mother and stepfather.”
In a later forensic interview at the Children’s Recovery Center in Myrtle Beach, Gallman’s daughter said she often gets bruises from her dance class when her instructors would help her perform flips, as well as when she’s playing on the trampoline and with their dog.
On Sept. 8, Gallman didn’t turn over the children to Price during the scheduled meeting.
Gallman said in a court filing that due to the lack of government services during Hurricane Dorian, his attorney advised Gallman to keep the children until the scheduled forensic interview at the Children’s Recovery Center. He said in an interview that he had notified Price’s attorney.
“I followed the directives of my attorney to the ‘T,’” Gallman said. “He’s the one that said that. He sent information to the guardian that said that, he sent information to her attorney that said that. I also followed the direction of Officer Fletcher with the Horry County Police Department who said they should not be exchanged as well.”
He declined to say whether he currently believes his children are being abused because he didn’t want to comment on pending litigation.
After Gallman failed to turn over the children to his ex-wife, she filed a motion on Sept. 9, asking for an ex-parte order to get her children back, and included an affidavit from Department of Social Services investigator Amanda Sutherland.
After speaking with the children’s counselor, Roberta Bogle, a former guardian ad litem and others, Sutherland said in her affidavit, “I do not have concerns about the care the children receive in the custody of Mr. and Mrs. Price. I do have concerns about Mr. Gallman, and his behavior based on previous case history, his current actions, as well as current collateral contacts. Those contacts I have spoken to have all expressed concerns about Mr. Gallman. I would like to speak with the children, at this time I have not, and I am not aware of their location as they are with Mr. Gallman.”
Gallman criticized Sutherland, although he declined to offer specifics due to pending litigation.
“I’ve had one conversation with Amanda Sutherland in my life, it was a 10-minute conversation,” He said. “Amanda Sutherland’s never been to my house, DSS has never been to my house. They’ve got some answers that they’ve got to answer to.”
A judge issued an ex-parte order on Sept. 9, giving Price sole custody of their children. The order was rescinded several days later, but Price and her husband still got their children back, with the help of police, according to records contained in the court documents.
Gallman’s daughter described the situation in her forensic interview with the Children’s Recovery Center.
Gallman’s daughter told the interviewer that her father sent her to a room in the house and locked the door when he saw Price, her husband and a police officer coming to the house, according to the CRC records.
She was able to escape through an adjoining bathroom with two entrances, but said her dad was positioned in front of the door as her mother came to get her, the CRC records said.
Gallman’s daughter “states she reached out her hand in between her father’s arm and leg and her mother ‘pulled me out of the house,’” the interview notes said.
Price said in an affidavit, “I will never forget the police officer who helped us to get the children and my daughter looking at her with tears in her eyes, saying ‘thank you!’”
In the interview with the Children’s Recovery Center, Price and Gallman’s daughter accused Gallman of hitting her mother on several occasions, and said he would often yell and get mad without a reason.
Dr. Carol Rahter with the Children’s Recover Center wrote that “during her forensic interview she discloses physical abuse by her father, John Gallman, by throwing her on the bed as well as emotional neglect secondary to exposure to domestic violence between her father and mother, Sarah Price.”
Court records show DSS investigated the incident involving Gallman throwing her daughter on the bed but could not find evidence of abuse.
“When she describes the domestic violence, she only discloses only father hitting mother,” Rahter wrote. “She also disclosed emotional abuse by her father and mother telling her what to say and sharing adult relationship conversations with her. During her medical exam she describes an incident where her father was punching her mother in the arms, legs and abdomen when he was angry at her.
“She describes her father calling her mother ‘stupid’ and getting angry at her when she defends her mother. She states her father is often angry and screams a lot.”
The interview notes expand on this behavior.
Gallman’s daughter alleged in the CRC interview notes that Gallman would frequently prevent her from using her phone to call her mother, and would sometimes take her phone for “a whole week straight,” but that she could call her father whenever she wanted while in her mother’s care.
According to the CRC notes, Gallman’s daughter said she “has seen her father hitting her mother ‘at least two or three’ times.”
The interview notes say that Gallman’s daughter wanted DSS to know that she “does not want to go to her father’s house anymore because ‘he yells at me and stuff and he just like really, really, really mean sometimes,’ and ‘he loses his temper.’”
Gallman denied the accusations, saying they were “100% percent untrue.”
“My daughter was put in an environment and was coached to say that,” Gallman said. “You won’t find that accusation ever put forth. The guardian, as bad as her report was, never reported that. The guardian met with my child multiple times. The only time the daughter would have been in the presence of me and her mother was when we were married, prior to the divorce. So this was reported after the divorce. My daughter had seen four different counselors, it’s not in one counselor’s notes, it’s not in Deborah Dantzler’s report. It’s not even in anything that the mother said.”
But Price’s court filings also allege domestic violence by Gallman. “John has broken my finger and dragged me around our back yard by the hair,” Price wrote in a Sept. 23 affidavit. “He has thrown glass, remotes, even a hot pot of chili at me. He was abusive in every other way there is as well.”
Roberta Bogle, the children’s counselor and clinical director at The Center for Counseling & Wellness in North Myrtle Beach, wrote in affidavits submitted to the court on Sept. 23 that Gallman had taken a “threatening, manipulative posture” towards her.
She said in her affidavits that both children had expressed a desire to stay with their mother.
She also said Gallman had claimed she wasn’t including him in the counseling sessions, but she said that she had made “many offers” to him to discuss the children’s counseling, which “he has refused to respond to.”
Gallman, Bogle wrote, “is not sincerely interested in helping [his children] make adjustments to living in two households, becoming a more effective parent, or building a healthier relationship with [his children] but rather seeks to ‘win’ the custody dispute with Sarah at all costs regardless of the harm it causes to [his children] or anyone else in the process (including me). At this point, John has become hostile and disruptive to me, my office staff, and the counseling process. In keeping with ethical practices, I feel it would be counter-productive for me to engage with John in the counseling process.”
On Oct. 11, Judge Bromell-Holmes issued a temporary order giving sole custody of the children to Price, and said the court wasn’t happy with Gallman’s unfounded abuse allegations and other behaviors.
The “Defendant father has filed/made a complaint against the minor children’s therapist/counselor, Roberta Bogle, that have been dismissed,” Holmes wrote. “Further, anyone involved with this case or individuals who have filed affidavits in support of the mother as father perceives it have been harassed, intimidated or ridiculed by the father or others acting on his behalf as being untruthful or biased towards the mother. This court will not be intimidated and will do what is in the best interest of the children.”
Holmes continued in the order, the “Defendant-Father is to have no visitation with the minor children, no telephonic contact or electronic contact with the children, and will not participate or attend any of the children’s extracurricular activities, appointments or events.”
Price was granted sole custody. The case is still pending.
Gallman declined to comment on efforts to get his children back.
“That is current litigation,” Gallman said. “We will win again in the end. That’s all I’ll say.”
Domestic violence resources include the Family Justice Center serving Horry and Georgetown Counties, at 844-208-0161.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233.