Man freed in competency mix-up arrested again in SC killings

Published: May. 13, 2022 at 4:54 AM EDT
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KINGSTREE, S.C. (WCSC) - A man charged with killing two South Carolina sisters 12 years ago but who disappeared out of the legal system after he was found incompetent to stand trial has been arrested in Colorado.

Joseph Brand, 43, was arrested Thursday, according to attorney Lori Murray, who represents the family of Naomi Johnson, 65; and Thelma Haddock, 73. The Associated Press reported that a statement from Williamsburg County Sheriff Stephen Garner confirmed Brand was arrested in Pueblo, Colorado.

Johnson and Haddock were found shot to death in Johnson’s home in 2010.

Court records show Brand was found incompetent to stand trial on the two murder charges in 2012 and sent off to a state hospital for treatment. If his mental condition improved, he was supposed to return to jail and await trial.

Instead, Brand showed up free in Kingstree some months ago.

That prompted the sisters’ family and Murray to hold a news conference on Monday to demand answers about his release and the fact that the murder charges were apparently erased from court records.

“The problem this family has is they have no answers,” Murray said at that news conference, adding that Brand had reportedly been seen within blocks of the Williamsburg County Courthouse where the family held the news conference just 20 minutes earlier.

She said that back in November, a judge issued an order stating that Brand was not competent to stand trial and that he was not likely to become competent. But, she claimed the day before that order came out, Third Circuit Solicitor Ernest Finney III dropped the charges against Brand.

“Mr. Branch is walking around free as a jaybird,” Murray said. “[The family] is entitled to answers as to how that happened.”

Finney agreed to directly present the case to the grand jury during the week of May 26.

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