ST. GEORGE, SC (WCSC) - A Moncks Corner man is headed to prison for the rest of his life after being convicted in the murder of a woman he met on a social media app Thursday afternoon, the third day of the trial.
Edward Bonilla was found guilty of murder in the death of Ashley Pegram in April 2015. Bonilla showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
The judge sentenced Bonilla to life in prison without parole. and offered stern words, saying it was a brutal way for Pegram to die and called the burial of her body in a shallow grave in Harleyville brutal as well.
In closing arguments, lead prosecutor Don Sorenson told the jury what Bonilla did to Pegram was malicious and evil and if they believe Bonilla's story, he's sorry to be wasting their time.
On Wednesday, Bonilla said he was driving Pegram home after a party at his brother's house. As he drove her home, he says, Pegram accused him of stealing her mother's cell phone.
He said Pegram told him she had to use a restroom. Bonilla said when Pegram got out of his car, she started fighting with him and kicked his car.
He said he backed up the car, hit her, then tried to restrain the woman. Bonilla testified he put Pegram in a bear hug or choke hold and she fell to the ground dead.
Bonilla initially told investigators he dropped Pegram off at a gas station and drove off. In court Wednesday, he admitted he sent a phony Kik message to Pegram's phone to throw investigators off track.
Russell Hilton, Bonilla's attorney, told the jury there's no evidence Bonilla intended to kill the mother of three.
"If he intended to kill Ashley Pegram that night, why would he leave his personal cell phone number, why would he leave his real name?" Hilton said in closing arguments. "Why would he take her to a party where he would be seen with her with people who knew him?"
Hilton called Pegram's death an unfortunate event and said Bonilla made some bad choices.
In an interesting sidebar jurors give the judge a note saying they feared retaliation for their guilty verdict.
The judge promised them protection if they felt they needed it and told anyone who feels intimidated to call the sheriff's office.