Sheriff: Children's father's 'lifestyle' to blame for Holly Hill deaths

Published: Aug. 7, 2015 at 2:35 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 7, 2015 at 9:39 PM EDT
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Orangeburg Sheriff Leroy Ravenell refers to a board of newspaper clippings about the case he...
Orangeburg Sheriff Leroy Ravenell refers to a board of newspaper clippings about the case he says stays in his office. (Photo Source: Live 5)

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The sheriff of Orangeburg County says the father of the three children shot in a fatal Holly Hill shooting is responsible for two of their deaths because of his "lifestyle."

Sheriff Leroy Ravenell announced Christopher Wright faces a total of five new charges: three counts of unlawful neglect of a child, one count of trafficking cocaine base and one count of obstruction of justice in connection with the July 15 shooting that left two of Wright's children, his fiancee and another man dead and a third child wounded.

Ravenell told reporters he wished he could say he had the shooter in custody.

"I can't do that today," he said. But Ravenell then minced no words in accusing Wright of being responsible for letting the murders happen.

"This case is directly connected to his style of living: drug dealing," Ravenell said. "He placed his children in an environment that was dangerous. We can prove that he sold drugs from this location."

According to affidavits, Wright possessed more than 10 grams of cocaine base at the home where the shooting took place. Investigators say they found the substance in the kitchen of the home during the execution of a search warrant and that witness statements confirmed purchasing illegal narcotics at the home. The obstruction of justice charge was filed after Wright allegedly withheld information about the crime from investigators, the affidavit states. The remaining warrants accuse Wright of exposing his children to dangerous substances and placing them "at unreasonable risk of harm" by "using his residence on record to distribute illegal narcotics."

Ravenell stood at a lectern steps away from investigators who continue to pursue leads in the shooting and a bulletin board of newspaper clippings related to the case. He said he takes the case personally and keeps the board in his office as a constant reminder of the killings.

"This man," Ravenell said, pointing to Wright's photo on the bulletin board, "because of his lifestyle, because of the way he decided to live, we have four people dead and one in the hospital."

Two of Christopher Wright's children, Shamekia Sanders, 17, and Tamara-Alexia Perry, 14, were killed in the shooting. A third child, an 8-year-old was injured and remains in the hospital. Wright's fiancee, 28-year-old Krystal Hutto and a fourth victim, 50-year-old Jerome Butler were also killed.

Ravenell said Wright has been "uncooperative" as investigators have tried to identify a gunman.

"I believe Mr. Wright knows more than he's telling us, which is nothing," Ravenell said. "He's the father, and because of his lifestyle, his kids are no longer here. But not only that, why would you not cooperate with the investigation?"

Ravenell said that at some point, Wright felt the need to not stay at the home, but says he still kept his children there.

Orangeburg County investigators arrested Wright on two outstanding South Carolina Law Enforcement Division warrants for trafficking methamphetamine as they interviewed him about the fatal shooting, Walker said, but those charges were unrelated to the shooting incident.

A second man, Robert Bailey, 35, of Eutawville, was also arrested on OCSO warrants for manufacturing marijuana, possession of cocaine, and an outstanding traffic violation of driving under suspension by the SC Highway Patrol.

A third man, 26-year-old Michael Deroaknel Smith, Jr., of Moncks Corner, who First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe named as a "person of interest," was arrested the week after the shooting after a high speed chase that saw speeds reach more than 100 mph. The chase started when a deputy reported that he attempted to conduct a traffic stop on Smith's car for which Smith failed to stop, and fled the scene until he wrecked his car.

Ravenell said dispatchers received a call about an incident at the home in the 7,000 block of Old State Road at 6:48 a.m. and deputies arrived at 7:03 a.m. They found Butler in front yard of the home already dead, he said. Hutto's body was found in one bedroom and the two teens were found in another bedroom. The boy was also discovered inside the home and was airlifted to MUSC.

Ravenell also said a car investigators were looking for, a green 1990s model Mercedes, was found burned approximately 15 miles away from the crime scene in the Vance area, Ravenell said.

There have been no arrests or charges filed in the actual killings.

Late Friday afternoon, Orangeburg County Magistrate Rob Clariday deferred bond to a circuit court judge at a later date, Orangeburg County Sheriff's spokesman Richard Walker said. Pascoe had requested the court deny bond,stating the Holly Hill man was already out on bond for drug charges when he was arrested again on Thursday.

A special hotline has been set up for tips in the case. Anyone with information, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is asked to call (888) 825-7172.

A reward of $2,500 has been set up for anyone who has information leading to an arrest and conviction.

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