The family of a young Aynor woman, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing her grandmother and her grandmother’s husband, walked away from the Horry County Courthouse with two losses Thursday afternoon.
Dara and Anthony Hodge said they were pleased that justice was meted out to their mom’s killers, “but at the same time we’re losing a daughter.”
Dara’s mother, 64-year-old Linda McAllister, was shot dead in 2017, and the Hodges’ daughter, 23-year-old Jordan Hodge, was convicted of the two murders, along with her boyfriend, 30-year-old Kenneth Wayne Carlisle.
The Hodges said Jordan met her co-defendant, Kenneth Wayne Carlisle, 30, online before the two had their first in-person meeting at Walmart.
Jordan’s parents and her uncle, James “Bo” Moran, all think if Jordan hadn’t met Carlisle she never would have gotten into the trouble she found herself in after the deaths of her grandmother and stepgrandfather.
“She made her decisions,” her father said. “Parents have got to be parents. You can’t cover up for your kids. We told Jordan everyday, ‘Whatever you do you’re responsible for your actions.’”
He also advised young people to surround themselves with good people and not to settle.
Anthony Hodge said he loved his mother-in-law just like she was his own mom, calling her an amazing woman.
“She would talk 30 minutes to a wrong number,” he said with a smile.
McAllister had five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The Hodges were also complimentary of Clemmons, whom they called a very sweet person.
Jordan’s parents have been staying in touch with their daughter through video while she’s been serving at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center, but they don’t know yet what kind of visitation state prisons allow.
As he headed to his vehicle after court recessed, Moran said, “We buried our mom two years ago…I will never see my niece again in person, so that’s tough.”
The Hodges said they didn’t know when Jordan first became interested in Carlisle that he was married and had prior problems with the law in North Carolina.
Prosecutor Seth Oskin said he thought the evidence in the case was overwhelming and the law enforcement agencies involved in the case had done a great job.
McAllister’s friends and family became concerned about her after she didn’t show up for a Fourth of July party at a neighbor’s home in 2017. After worrying about her for several days, Robin Cole went to McAllister’s home, found an unlocked door and went it. She reported seeing a house in total disarray, debris everywhere and dogs that had not been fed or given any water for a while. She said there was feces and urine throughout the house. The dogs’ condition caused her to become even more concerned because she knew how much her friend loved her dogs.
After the conviction, Moran was still thinking about the dogs.
“My mom loved those dogs and those two, now-convicted murderers, left them in there to die, and that’s over the top,” he said.
McAllister and Clemmons had been married for less then one year when, prosecutors say, Jordan and Carlisle teamed up to kill them for money.
Oskin called the case a story of greed, lies and evil deeds.
He theorized that Jordan came up with the murder scheme and Carlisle actually shot the couple. Although no one is sure where the murders happened, Oskin believes the couple was shot inside of their own truck when it pulled over for 12 minutes on Pleasant Union Drive July 3, 2017.
FBI agent Nathaniel Dingle used GPS to track the truck to an Advance Auto Shop, to Walmart several times, to several area banks and twice to the location where the bodies were found.
Conway police say they became suspicious about what Hodge told them when they first visited Linda McAllister’s house trying to figure out what had happened to her and her husband.
When McAllister’s neighbor Robin Cole, Moran and police questioned Hodge she told them all that the couple had gone to Ohio for a family emergency and lent them their truck so they could take care of the dogs.
But, according to testimony in Horry County Court this week, the couple had not gone to Ohio; they were dead. Both had been shot, one in the head.
Their badly-decomposed bodies were found sitting under a tree, covered in straw and bushes, on Browns Chapel Avenue in a remote location near the Waccamaw River about 12 days after they were last seen. Their bodies were identified using DNA samples.
In his opening statement to the jury, prosecutor George DeBusk said McAllister and Clemmons lived on Dewberry Drive, near U.S. 701 South, in Conway. She was a mother and grandmother, who at times had a strained relationship with some members of her family, but Moran testified that his mom got along best with Jordan Hodge, whom she typically saw about four times a week.
Police were able to obtain pictures of McAllister’s truck at an ATM where someone was getting lots of cash as well as a video of the couple spending money at Walmart.
“They went to Walmart like they won the lottery,” Oskin said.
Their Walmart purchases included a PlayStation 4, games, insurance on the games and food. What they didn’t buy was dog food.
Jordan Hodge and Carlisle then went on a spending spree, taking $100 back on every purchase made with the dead woman’s debit card.
The dead couple’s truck had also been found at the home of Hodge and Carlisle and police retrieved GPS footage showing where the truck had traveled after the couple’s death. Two .25-caliber shell casings and a bloody paper towel were found in the truck, and there was blood in the truck’s bed. Evidence showed that Carlisle owned a .25-caliber handgun.
Moran testified that his mother was not a wealthy person, but she had recently sold her home on the river that she owned without debt and had bought a house on Dewberry Drive, leaving her with $126,000. Law enforcement officials now believe that in the days after the couple’s deaths, Hodge and Carlisle spent about $11,000 of that money.
Hodge’s attorney, Ralph Wilson Sr., argued that all of the evidence in the case was circumstantial and that circumstantial evidence can be misleading. He said no one saw Hodge shoot anyone and that GPS showed where the truck went, but it didn’t show who was in it, and a jury can’t convict anyone on suspicion.
He and Carlisle’s attorney, Martin Spratlin, both talked to the jury about the S.C. law that says the hand of one is the hand of all, both saying that for someone to be convicted using this rule they must have contributed to the crime in some way.
A former resident of Browns Chapel Road and two other men she was swimming with smelled a “distinctive smell” that they would get a whiff of every time the wind shifted, and it seemed to be coming from the edge of the woods on the property.
They investigated, found the bodies and called police.
When he went to McAllister’s home, Heath Watford with the Conway Police Department noted a Stouffer’s lasagna on the counter that was thawed out and molded, “in its complete package like it’d been taken out to be put in the oven,” he said.
The bathroom light was on, the television was on and a picture on their nightstand was facedown, and there were phone chargers still in the wall.
Hodge repeatedly said her grandmother and stepgrandfather had gone to Ohio for a family emergency, and left the truck with them asking them to take care of their dogs.
Once he began asking more questions about the truck, Warford said both Hodge and Carlisle became visibly nervous.
“As soon as I asked for the keys, his demeanor completely changed. He started sweating, and every time I would mention the truck, he would look back at the truck,” Watford said.
He said Carlisle told him they misplaced the keys the night before while drinking with friends.
Retired former Horry County crime scene investigator Robbie Caulder was also working on the case in 2017, and identified for the jury some photos of the remains of the two bodies found in the wooded area in Bucksport. He told the court that trees and shrubbery had been pulled over the top of them.
Caulder testified that one skull appeared to have a bullet hole in it.
Caulder said the investigation changed from a missing person issue when he found blood on the back floorboard of the blue truck.
Robin O’Kane with asset protection at the Conway Walmart testified regarding video surveillance of Hodge and Carlisle making purchases at the store between July 4, 2017, and July 17, 2017, worth just under $4,000. Purchases included hair dye, two different Febreze carpet cleaners, scrubbing sponges and Clorox bleach, as well as food items, two window air conditioning units, a set of pots and pans, a PlayStation 4 and a security chain.
GPS also showed the truck going to a car wash.
Spratlin and Wilson both argued that there was no proof of anything, that no one saw anybody shoot McAllister or Clemmons and no one knew who was inside the truck when it was making its treks.
But Circuit Judge Craig Brown said that taking the evidence as a whole there certainly was enough to send the case to a jury. Hodge and Carlisle were the last two to see the victims alive; they had their truck and debit cards and they had been not once, but twice gone to the place where the victims were found. He pointed to the misleading statements the defendants had made about the victims going to Ohio the DNA matches, the bullet casings and pictures of the defendants buying cleaning supplies at Walmart.
Oskin said Jordan Hodge told police that her mother and grandmother hated each other and that every time they got together they had to be separated, and she was the one who stopped them.
“This case is very very very calculated, but it’s not complicated,” he said.
He pulled the trigger and she came up with the story, and he added, “Lies catch up to you in life.”
Both Spratlin and Wilson argued that there was no direct evidence against his client. They pointed out that even though Hodge and Carlisle were sitting at the same table in the courtroom, they (Wilson and Spratlin) were not on the same team.
“We don’t have any doubt he was the one who killed both of those individuals. That’s coming from the State; that’s not what I said,” Wilson said.
He conceded that Jordan Hodge had spent her grandmother’s money and was using her truck and might have been the one to lure them to the river site.
“Is it wrong, yes! Could she have reported it, yes! That not the crime of murder,” he said.
Later, he said, “Love can make you do funny things, but it doesn’t make you guilty of murder.”
Spratlin referred repeatedly to the more than 140 court exhibits in the case, but said quantity of exhibits isn’t what counts, it’s quality, and nothing in the exhibits showed his client killing or hiding the dead couple.
Referring to the State, he said, “They seem to think that Jordan’s the brains of this operation and Kenneth’s the muscle…She set ‘em up; he shot ‘em down.”
But he said it doesn’t take much muscle to fire a .25-caliber handgun.
“Where is the piece of evidence that shows that my client did it?” Waving his hand over the exhibits, he asked, “Is it here? Is it there? Is it anywhere?...It’s not there.”
Horry Independent reporter Katie Powell contributed to this story.