BEAUFORT, SC (WCSC) - A man accused of two murders and other crimes across the Lowcountry has been given four life sentences after pleading in court Monday.
Jerry Lee Manigault was to face trial on charges of murder, criminal sexual conduct and first-degree burglary in the 2014 death of 70-year-old Polly Ann Mitchell of Bluffton.
He was also charged in Charleston County with the murder of 77-year-old Julia Mudgett. Mudgett lived near Manigault in Hollywood and was killed about six days before Mitchell, according to a press release.
Instead of facing trial, Manigault entered a plea to accept four life-without-parole sentences for murder and burglary charges associated with the deaths.
Manigault also received 30 years for sexually assaulting Mitchell and 15 years for the strong-armed robbery of Mudgett.
"I was very glad to give the family of Polly Ann Mitchell at least a small measure of closure in this case," Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton said. "And I am glad not only for them, but for all of the citizens of Beaufort County and the 14th and Ninth circuits that Jerry Manigault will die in prison."
Manigault's criminal record in South Carolina dates back to at least 1993 and includes convictions for kidnapping, crack possession, criminal domestic violence, grand larceny, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and burglaries.
Manigault was listed as a person of interest in Mudgett's disappearance and was being sought by the U.S. Marshals Service for failure to register as a sex offender on May 12, 2014, when he was arrested in Bluffton.
Hours later, a family member discovered Mitchell's body in her Buck Island home. She had reportedly been sexually assaulted and strangled with a power cord.
When Manigault was arrested, he had a backpack belonging to Mitchell. His clothing and money he carried in his pocket had Mitchell's blood on it. He was wearing Mitchell's ring on one of his fingers and his DNA was found on the power cord used to strangle her.
A witness told authorities he saw Manigault near Mitchell's home the night before her body was found.Other witnesses said Manigault came to the Buck Island Road area and had been trying to sell a car that authorities later found out belonged to Mudgett.
The car was recovered from Tuten Landing Road in Ridgeland on May 12, 2014. A witness told authorities he abandoned it a few days after buying it from Manigault.
After Mudgett's body was found in a wooded area near her home, Manigault was charged with murder as well.