CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – The father of murder victim Kate Waring told a Charleston court Tuesday that he feared the worst for his daughter after a bank officer called to ask about a probable forged check on his daughter's account.
That call came just days after the 28-year-old woman had gone missing after a night out with friends and less than a week after Thomas Waring had confronted his daughter about a $550 check made out to Ethan Mack.
Kate Waring's account could not cover the amount of the check and Mr. Waring told the dozen jurors in the courtroom that he daughter evaded questioning about the check, only saying she "would handle it."
The family spent several agonizing months searching for their daughter before investigators, working on clues provided by Heather Angelica Kamp, located Waring's remains on Wadmalaw Island.
Now, several weeks after Kamp made a plea deal that would involve her testimony against her boyfriend, Mack is facing charged of murder, obstruction of justice and forgery. Prosecutors allege Mack tried to cash a forged $4,500 check from Kate Waring's bank account just days he and his girlfriend tortured Waring with a taser and then drowned her in a bathtub at his James Island home in June 2009.
In the first day of testimony, attorneys and Kate's parents painted a picture of the 28-year-old as a "true ball of fire, full of life, full of creativity." She was a skilled wordsmith, athletic, a firebrand, but she had a darker side, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said.
Dr. Darlene Moak, Kate's last psychiatrist, classified her as a troubled woman who was trying to overcome a molestation experience in her childhood and more recent drug and alcohol abuse.
"I was treating her for major depressive disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," she said to the court.
Moak said Kate Waring had been longtime friends with Mack and would, at times, talk about him in her therapy sessions. However, since Kamp had arrived in Charleston, Moak said, Kate had been having problems in her friendship with Mack and had even decided to drop the friendship.
"[Kate's] plan was to distance herself from him," she said.
For every step forward in Kate Waring's life – a desire to go back to school, the prospect of a job – she would also suffer a setback. Mr. Waring said Kate moved in and out of the family's downtown Charleston home several times. They always welcomed her back into their home because they thought it was best for her, he told jurors.
Mr. Waring even served as a signatory on Kate's bank account, making sure his daughter had money to cover her expenses. It was that role as signatory that first alerted Mr. Waring to Ethan Mack when the $550 check didn't clear his daughter's bank account, he said. Although, some time would elapse before he was able to connect Kate's friend Ethan with Mack.
Days after their daughter disappeared, Mack tried to cash that forged $4,500 check. Mr. and Mrs. Waring said they felt Mack was somehow involved in her disappearance. It was October 2009 before Kamp implicated Mack in the murder.
It was Kamp that led Charleston police to the street on Wadmalaw Island where Kate's remains were later found, Charleston police officer Kelly Stone said. Stone was working with the special victims unit of the Charleston Police Department at the time of Waring's disappearance and was assigned the case.
Stone helped fill in the details of the night of Kate Waring's death.
She said the trio of friends went to a late dinner at Wasabi, a popular Japanese steak house and sushi bar in downtown Charleston, after finding two other restaurants closed. Waring, Mack and Kamp spent a couple of hours at the restaurant, finally paying their tab sometime around 11:30 p.m. on June 11.
Mack had always been a suspect, Stone said, because his name was always coming up in their questioning of other people. "We looked at boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, friends, family members, cab drivers, people at the gym," she said.
In fact, Waring was talking on the phone to one of the former suspects after the three left Wasabi that night, Stone said.
Stone said Mack didn't help his case either because he was less than forthcoming with information during interviews. He would sometimes withhold information and at others, he would lie, she said. Mack told police detectives that Waring was known to disappear for days at a time and that her disappearance should not be a concern.
Detectives would learn that was not the truth. "She was always in contact with someone," Stone said.
She also said Mack never told police he was living on Riley Road, the alleged scene of Kate Waring's murder.
While police were digging through Waring's past trying to develop a solid lead on her disappearance, Mr. Waring had hired a team of private investigators. According to him, he felt the work of Charleston police was moving too slow.
"I did not understand the police procedure and that missing persons are given a low priority when there is no evidence of a crime," he said. "I decided I wanted immediate action so I hired private investigators."
However, he became dissatisfied with the first team and replaced with a second group of investigators headed by prominent Charleston attorney Andy Savage and a family friend, John Rivers. He told the court the change came after he felt the first team was not focusing on James Island and the African-American communities there.
Defense attorney David Aylor painted a different picture of Mack, saying the defendant and Waring were longtime best friend. Waring's parents said in testimony their daughter told them she thought of Mack like a brother.
Instead, Aylor placed the blame on Kamp, the woman who is now known to be a pathological liar. In his opening statement, Aylor said Kamp had told so many lies to so many people it was impossible to know what to believe.
She told Waring and Mack that she was a doctor moving to Charleston to work at the Medical University of South Carolina. She told another witness, Wayne Colson Jr. – a man she met through a social networking site – that she was training to be a doctor. Aylor told jurors in his opening statement Kamp faked a pregnancy to convince Mack to marry her
"She lied to him! She lied to this judge. She stood here under oath in this room and lied to him," he said, referring to Kamp's August plea hearing.
In that plea hearing, Kamp pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, forgery and obstruction of justice in Waring's death. She faces up to 45 years in prison, but that sentence may be reduced in exchange for her assistance in Mack's trial.
The theme of Kamp's lies continued during Mrs. Waring's testimony. On the stand, she depicted Kamp as a woman immersed in lies. Mrs. Waring detailed a conversation with her daughter in which she said Kamp was stressed out over a car accident that had killed her daughter.
When Mrs. Waring met Kamp, she said little of the recent accident that took her daughter's life, but instead told Mrs. Waring of her son who had died of leukemia after Kamp and her ex-husband had agreed to "pull the plug."
The story raised red flags for Mrs. Waring, she said. And she tried to warn her daughter.
"This girl is a scam artist," she told the jury. "This girl scared the daylights out of me."
Both the prosecution and the defense have depicted Kamp as an aggressor in the lives of Waring and Mack. Aylor has asked why his client, a man without a criminal history, would turn on his friend of several years after having known Kamp for a month. He told jurors there was no logical reason for it – trying to tear apart the prosecution's motive of greed, sex and jealousy.
"He killed her in cold blood on Friday night, went to the bank on Monday with a $4,500 check?" Aylor asked the court. "Ethan's not a Rhodes Scholar, but what level of intelligence would you have to have [to do that]?"
Instead, Aylor presented a different scenario, one in which Kamp concocted the story she told police to frame Kamp for Waring's murder. "You've heard about the lies, the background of Ms. Kamp, of Ms. Waring, but Mr. Mack is also a victim here – a victim of Heather Kamp's deceit."
Kamp is expected to testify Wednesday.