Two victims in the Kingston Lake Drive armed robbery, burglary trial were unshakable in their testimony that the two defendants were among the four who went into their home brandishing guns and threatening to kill them in July of 2016.
The court broke for the evening after the State and Defense both rested, but before closing arguments that are scheduled to begin at 9:30 in the morning.
After that the judge must sentence a third defendant Pagrein Harrell, who pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary, violent before the trial started. Harrell promised to testify in the trial as a State's witness, but prosecutors Scott Graustein and Mary-Ellem Walter did not call him as a witness.
Raheem Green, 22, was sentenced to 20 years in jail after he recanted his earlier guilty plea and pleaded again to armed robbery. He had earlier promised his testimony in the trial, which was expected to cause Judge Steven H. John to look upon him favorably when he got around to sentencing him. However, in the end he decided against testifying and the Judge went on with his sentencing.
The remaining co-defendants, Sean L. Page Jr. and Franklin Vereen Price are expected to get their decision tomorrow morning from the 10-woman, two-man jury.
Both men are charged with first-degree burglary, kidnapping and armed robbery in connection with entering a home on Kingston Lake Drive where four adults and a sleeping child were.
Prosecutor Scott Graustein told Judge John that the four men went into the house through an open carport door, held the family hostage at gunpoint, walked them around their home demanding cash, guns and games.
At one point one of them took a debit card and wanted one of the victims to go with him to use it, but they refused .
When resident Jimmy Brown pretended to have a heart attack, the men apparently became afraid and left.
The men entered the house at about 9 p.m. and stayed for about 45 minutes, according to Graustein.
One of the victims, Blake Hewitt, an attorney who was recently elected to a judgeship on the S.C. Court of Appeals, told the judge that the crime was a harrowing experience for him, his wife, mother-in-law and father-in-law.
His daughter, 2-years-old at the time, was asleep during the crime for which Hewitt says he’s exceedingly thankful because she has no memory of the incident.
He said he’s never been more terrified in his life than he was that night.
Although Brown’s theatrical move stopped the crime, the faked heart attack made the event even more harrowing for the others who didn’t know that he was not really having a heart attack, Hewitt said.
In a most unusual move in the case, the lawyer representing one of the remaining defendants asked the judge Tuesday morning to query the duo to make sure they understood the gravity of the situation they’re facing and the severity of the penalty they could receive.
Conway attorney and former solicitor Ralph Wilson told Judge John that his client, 19-year-old Sean I. Page Jr., had ignored every phone call and request for a meeting that he had made, and he hadn’t met the young man until Monday when he was summoned for trial.
He said, in a first for him, he actually had to hire someone to go to Page’s home to deliver documents he needed to see.
Page and his co-defendant, Franklin Vereen-Price, who is represented by Kia Wilson, both indicated to the Judge that they didn’t want to plead guilty and they understood the lecture that the Judge had given them.
Wilson said the evidence against the two young men is overwhelming and that it’s unlikely that a jury will find them not guilty. He said his major concern is the youth of the defendants.
He said at one point the State offered the men jail terms of 15 years each, but if they’re found guilty they will receive much tougher sentences. The State has now withdrawn all offers for lesser penalties in return for their guilty pleas.
“I can’t seem to get through to them,” Ralph Wilson said. “I don’t know what I’m not doing correctly, but I’m trying.”
Judge John then explained to the duo that they are facing two, 30-year sentences and one life without parole, if they are found guilty.
The first-degree burglary charge is the one that carries a life without parole sentence.
Judge John told the duo that if they’re found guilty of the burglary charge, they will die in jail.
He also explained that the charges against the men are classified as violent, most serious. The violent rating means that whatever sentence they get, they’ll have to serve at least 85 percent before they can be released on parole.
The “most serious” classification counts as one of two strikes that a defendant can have before facing life without parole, and the Judge said, they’ll already be past that if they’re found guilty in this case.
He made it clear that they had the right to a trial and that they’d get one if they made that decision.
He also explained that they had the ability to plead guilty if they chose to, and that means that the Judge would have the discretion of sentencing them to the lower range of prison time for each offense they’re found guilty of.
After court broke, Page stood up straight, shook hands with Vereen-Price, pulled out his cell phone and looked down at it as he strode out of the courtroom. Vereen-Price was taken back to lock-up, but Page was not being held as of Tuesday morning.
The Conway police report says the teens also took a $12,000 vehicle that belonged to the victims. Page, who was a juvenile at the time, but was charged as an adult, was taken to Columbia to the Department of Juvenile Justice and the other three were taken to the Horry County Detention Center.
The three older boys were arrested first and the juvenile later turned himself in after his parents encouraged him to, according to police in 2016.
Conway police say an investigation into this incident developed other leads that might possibly link to other burglaries, automobile break-ins and automobile thefts.
Prosecutor Mary-Ellen Walter said a search of the home at 1404 Racepath Ave., where several of the defendants lived, turned up lots of evidence against them, some of it from other break-ins around town. Those items were returned to their owners.
Also, Tuesday morning there was a question about Sean Page’s mental health, but a forensic psychologist testified that she examined him and he had no signs of any mental illness. He had been taking medication for depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She said he showed signs of alcohol and cannabis use. She also said the ADHD diagnosis shouldn’t give Page any serious behavior problems, but might make it difficult for him to behave in the courtroom, that he might be disorganized and could have trouble working with his attorney, but it shouldn’t have an impact on the trial.
She also testified that his intelligence level falls within the average range.
Check back for updates.