CORONER'S INQUISITION, 1967-1980
Book 6
NEWBERRY COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA
Transcribed and contributed by Edith Greisser

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, COUNTY OF NEWBERRY

AN INQUISITION, indented, taken at Newberry in the County and State aforesaid, the 8th day of September A.D., one thousand nine hundred and seventy seven before Leroy Wilson, Coroner, upon view of the body of Richard Donald Santay then and there being dead by the oaths of Frank Brown, Rick McCutcheon, Phil Rowe, Woodrow Merchant, Robert L. McCaughrin, Jimmy R. Pruitt being a lawful jury of inquest who being charged and sworn to inquire, for the State of South Carolina where and by what means the said Richard Donald Santay came to his death, upon their oaths, do say Richard Donald Santay came to his death as the result of an automobile accident of his own causing. And so the said jurors aforesaid, do say, that the aforesaid Richard Donald Santay came to his death in the manner aforesaid.       .

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I LEROY WILSON, Coroner aforesaid, and the jurors aforesaid, to this inquisition, have set our hands and seals, the day and the year aforesaid.

                                                                                /s/ D. Leroy Wilson, Coroner (L.S.)

                                                                                /s/ Frank Brown, Foreman (L.S.)

/s/ Jimmy R. Pruitt (L.S.)

/s/ Rick McCutcheon (L.S.)                                                  /s/ Woodrow Merchant (L.S.)

/s/ Phil Rowe (L.S.)                                                   /s/ Robert L. McCaughrin (L.S.)

PROCEEDINGS

CORONER WILSON: Mr. Brown, will you stand and be sworn in as foreman of the jury, please?

(Foreman of the Jury and members of the jury were duly sworn.)

CORONER WILSON: Gentlemen, this is an inquisition into the cause of death of Richard Donald Santay, and members of this jury, it is your duty to listen to the testimony given by the witnesses and to determine from such tes­timony where and by what means the said Richard Donald Santay came to his death.

MR. R. W. DEVALL JR. being first duly sworn, was examined, and testified as follows:

BY CORONER WILSON:

Q.    Mr. DeVall, on August 5, I believe about 4:10 a.m. or maybe a little earlier, did you have a call on Interstate 26, a car wreck heading east?

A.    Yes sir, it was at, we were notified at 2:37, and the time of the accident was approximately 2:30.

Q.    Would you go ahead and tell the jury what your investigation proved?

A.    At approximately 2:37, I was notified of an automobile accident on 1-26. This was at the 70-mile marker, if you
       are familiar with 1-26. This would be just west of where the Gun Club Road crosses 1-26. A truck driver had
flagged me down and told me the wreck was there. Upon arriving, I found out in the field a 1977 Subaru, which is a small car approximately the size of a Toyota or a Datsun. When I first got there, I didn’t know who was driving or who was involved in it, but at that time I later found the subject to be or the person to be Robert Calhoun was sitting on the ground holding Richard Santay's head in his lap. He appeared to be trying to keep him where he could breathe. The Subaru was upside down out in the field. Shortly after I arrived, of course, the ambulance arrived also, and we sent them on to the hospital. Upon investigating the accident, I found the car was traveling eastbound on 1-26, and the driver was Robert Calhoun at the time of the accident. Now from the indications and from my investigation, I found that the car was traveling eastbound on 1-26, and the driver was Robert Calhoun at the time of the accident. Now from the indications and from my investigation, I found that the car was traveling at a high rate of speed. He lost control of it according to his statements and things to me at the time of the accident or the time I investigated it that Richard Santay reached up from the back of the car up between the bucket seats and caught hold of the steering wheel causing him to lose control. Now after he lost control, he traveled 91 feet down the lane nearest the median on the eastbound traffic side before going into the median. He traveled 193 feet total down the median at an angle. Ninety, let's see, 79 feet before he overturned, and then the car apparently overturned approximately one time and traveled another 114 feet for a total of 193. After coming out of the median, it went at an angle across the westbound lane before it turned over again. It traveled approximately 131 feet the second time it was turning over. Out of control with the part where it was overturning, etc., he traveled a total of 501 feet, and like I say, most of this, 131 feet was the last part where he overturned. He started overturning in the westbound lane and went out of the road into some small pines on the left side of the road. We have some pictures that I think I Mr. Wilson is going to show you a little later of the car and the scene of the accident. At the time, we - -it is state law that all people, persons killed in an automobile accident, there is a blood test that will be run on them, which we had run on Richard Santay. His reading was .04 of 1% which was not enough to have charged him with being under the influence and on Robert Calhoun, his reading which he volunteered the blood test to us of his own will, the reading on it was .02 of 1% which is also not enough to charge or even consider charging for driving under the influence. The only thing that we found here in the investigation was the apparent speed, which was a con­siderable speed, and my estimate on it on the accident report was 75 miles an hour. This was due to the distance that he traveled and also a testimony from a witness that we had there at the time, a Gerald Miller. However, Mr. Miller was military, and I believe he went to Germany, did he not?

CORONER WILSON: Yes sir

DEVALL: So, we could not get him back to testify.

CORONER WILSON: Did Robert Calhoun ever tell you how fast he was running at the time and before the accident?

A.    Not exactly, he said he had been running rather fast but had slowed down just prior to the accident. I never got an
        exact speed on that. The speed that I put down was estimation from the distance that the vehicle traveled out of control and also from what Mr. Miller told me as to how fast the car was running when it passed him back up the road. I understand that they were on the way to the beach, and that they were just more or less just horsing around in the car at the time of the accident.

CORONER WILSON: Any questions from the jury? This happened at night, didn't it?

A.    This was at approximately 2:30 in the morning, and I arrived at 2:37 - ­2:38 a.m., and the ambulance arrived at
        2:48 and they transported them to the Newberry County Hospital. As I stated before, at the time I got there, Mr. Calhoun was attempting to administer first aid to Mr. Santay, and the way I understand it from the identification they had on them, they all were E.M.T.'s, I believe the way it goes - -Emergency Medical Technicians. They had their training there at a Rescue Squad in Greenville.

CORONER WILSON: Where was Eddie Ridanour whenever you arrived and saw Santay? Where was the other passenger?

A.    When I first got there I don't really remember because he wasn't hurt, and when I first saw him, I believe we had gone up to the car. At that time, I didn't realize he was involved in the accident when I first got there. I really don't remember exactly the first time I did see him.

JUROR:             This happened in Newberry County, didn't it, Mr. DeVall?              

A.    Newberry County on I-26. This was on the 5th day of August 1977 on a Friday, early Friday morning.        

CORONER WILSON: Any questions?                                                                    .

JUROR: Didn't you say that someone reached up and grabbed the wheel?

A.    The person that was killed supposedly reached - -the car has bucket seats, and he was in the back, and he was also the owner of the car. From what I could learn from the people in the car which was Mr. Calhoun and-uh.

CORONER WILSON: Ridanour

DEVALL: Right, he reached up between the seats and caught the wheel - -took over the steering wheel.

CORONER WILSON: Any further questions?

JUROR: You say it was estimated at about 75 miles an hour?

DEVALL: Uh-approximately. Yes sir, of course now like I say it could have been more or less.

JUROR: And they were in one of those little cars?

DEVALL: Little cars - -about the size of a Toyota. It is called a Subaru. You don't really see that many of them, but it is approximately the size of a Toyota. The engine is in the front.

JUROR: It will go pretty fast, won't it?

DEVALL: Well, all of 'em will.

CORONER WILSON: Any more questions? That's all, Mr. DeVall, thank you.

CORONER WILSON: Now if you jury would like to come and look at these pictures, you can tell what the patrolman was talking about. This is where it started, I believe that's right, isn't it?

DEVALL: (Shows pictures) If you will notice here, here the marks are very faint in the left lane. You can see them starting here. Now there was 91 feet in this left lane. Now this if the pictures were, if you were able to put together better, you could follow a path is the way the car followed. You can see where he came into the median here. This point here is where the car apparently overturned. It either completely overturned or got up on its side. Then this is where it came out and started back across the westbound lane. Now here, this is the emergency lane-westbound emergency lane. This is the outside white line. You can see here from the gouge marks in the pavement where it started to overturn a second time. Of course, up across the bank and on across into the small pines up here where it came to rest is a total of 501 feet after he lost control of it back here.        These marks here are made where he started  kind  of getting sideways going toward the median. These are pictures of the car I made after it was pulled into the wrecker service. You can still see the wrecker hooked to it. Mr. Santay didn't die until two hours later. Mr. Wilson, I believe he died about 4:00 so it was a couple hours later when he died.

CORONER WILSON: It was several hours.

DEVALL: Approximately a couple hours more or less.

CORONER WILSON: They called me at 4:10, and he was dead on arrival at the hospital at 4:20, and it happened about 2:30.

EDDIE DEAN RIDANOUR, being first duly sworn, was examined, and testified as follows:

CORONER WILSON: You look better than you did the last time I saw you.

A.    I hope so.

Q.    Mr. Ridanour, where do you live?

A.    6 Cumberland Avenue, Greenville, South Carolina.

Q.    Were you riding in the car the night that Mr. Santay got killed?

A.    Yes sir

CORONER WILSON: Tell what happened from the time y'all got into that car until the wreck happened.

A.    Well, you see, we stopped by the Pizza Hut, and we were going to get something to eat, and everybody decided we wanted to get up and go the beach. We said, yeh we'll go.

CORONER WILSON: Talk loud enough so we can hear you.

A.    We stopped at the store and we got a case --a case of beer. We had it in the car, and on the way, well I had one in my hand before the wreck. Richard was laying, I guess he was asleep. I don't know. He rose up from the back seat and started acting silly, and he hollered in my ear. I turned to the right, he hollered in my ear. I turned back around, and the car was going all over the place.

CORONER WILSON: Did you see him put his hands on the steering wheel?

A.    No sir

Q.    He was hollering in your ear, and you didn't see him put his hands on the steering wheel?

A.    No sir, I turned my head.

Q.    Where was his hand when he was hollering in your ear?

A.    I have no idea.

Q.    But you didn't see him grab the steering wheel on that car?

A.    No sir

Q.    What did he say to you when he hollered in your ear?

A.    He just hollered. He didn't say nothing. He just said ah, just hollered.

Q.    I believe you stated he had been asleep lying on the back seat?

A.    I don't know whether he was asleep, but he was laying back there.

Q.    How fast were y'all traveling when this wreck happened?

A.    The last time I looked, we were doing about 60 or 65.

Q.    Was there a car in the front of you?

A.    No sir, I don't think so.

Q.    You were doing about 65 when the wreck happened?

A.    About 60 or 65.

Q.    How fast had y'all been running coming down the road?

A.    We were going faster than that.

Q.    Didn't you state to the patrolman and myself that y'all had been running about 85 miles an hour out at the hospital?

A.    It was about like that, going faster than 60 or 65.

Q.    You slowed down to about 65 when the wreck happened?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Which hand, well, you didn't see him grab the steering wheel with either hand. Didn't you state that you didn't see him grab the steering wheel?

A.    I don't know sir.

Q.    Well, how do you know he grabbed it?

A.    I don't.

Q.    What did the driver say whenever the car started skidding? Did he say anything?     

A.    I don't really know. I was just trying to find something to hold on to. I wasn't really paying attention if anybody said anything.

Q.    Were any of you thrown from the car?

A.    As far as I know, Richard was the only one throwed. I guess he had to come out the back windshield, the only place for him to come out.

Q.    You and Robert Calhoun were in the car when it got stopped, is that right?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    It got stopped from turning over. Do you remember how many times it turned over?

A.    No sir, I don't. I just remember it turning over when we were going to stop.

Q.    What did you do when it stopped?

A.    I come climbing out.

Q.    When did you see Donald-Richard Donald Santay after the wreck happened? Where did you see him?

A.    He was laying on the side of the road.

Q.    In the eastbound lane or the westbound lane? East is the way you were going, and west is the other way.

A.    The other way-the opposite way we was going.

Q.    Y'all hadn't had but one or two beers?

A.    I had more than one or two. I didn't pay any attention to how many they had.

Q.    What time did y'all leave Greenville?

A.    I don't really know.

CORONER WILSON: Any questions?

JUROR: You kind of smiled like there's not much to this when you were talking. This is a serious thing, you know.

A.    It wasn't fun.

JUROR: It wasn't funny, huh? It's a serious thing.

JUROR: You weren't driving? Were you driving?

A.    No sir

JUROR: You weren't driving.

CORONER WILSON: Was it raining when the wreck happened? Or was it just dark?

A.    It was dark.

CORONER WILSON: No cars in front of you?

A.    If there was, I don't remember.

CORONER WILSON: Any questions from the jury? Any further questions? (NO QUESTIONS FROM JURY)

CORONER WILSON: That's all.

ROBERT SESSIONS CALHOUN, (ADVISED OF HIS RIGHTS)

CORONER WILSON: Would you still like to testify?

A.    Yes sir

Being first duly sworn, was examined, and testified as follows:

BY CORONER WILSON:

Q.    Your name is Robert Sessions S-e-s-s-i-o-n-s?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Calhoun?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    You live at where?

A.    Apt. #27, no Apt. #37 Hite's Park-We moved since the wreck.

Q.    That in Greenville?

A.    Yes sir-no sir, that's in Mauldin.

Q.    Mauldin?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    You were living at 11 Lester Avenue in Greenville, weren't you?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Were you driving the car the night Mr. Santay got killed?

A.    Yes sir

CORONER WILSON: Tell what happened from the time you got into the car until after the wreck, all of it, down the road and the wreck and all of it.

A.    From the time I started driving?

CORONER WILSON: From the time you got into the car in Greenville.

A.    Well, I don't understand what you mean.

Q.    Where did you get into the car?

A.    When I started driving, I got in the car at Jordan's Self-Service Gas Station in Greenville.

CORONER WILSON: Well, that's what I just asked you.

A.    Well

Q.    Where did you get in the car in Greenville?

A.    I got in the car on Main Street in Greenville.

CORONER WILSON: Right

A.    We left Main Street and went down to the Pizza Hut and got something to eat. We left the Pizza Hut, and we

        decided we wanted to go to the beach. We left the Pizza Hut and went to the bank where Mr. Santay withdrew some money out of one of those night bank things. Then we went to the house and got some clothes. We left the house and went to Jordan's Self-Service Station where Richard Santay bought a case of beer. That's when I started driving the car. We left there and started toward the beach. We were coming down the road doing about 85 miles an hour. Richard Santay said Robert, slow down. I'm afraid you are going to blow the motor in the car. I started slowing down, and we went about 2 1/2 or 3 miles. I was going between 60 and 65 miles an hour. Mr. Santay was playing around. He took Mr. Ridanour's seat and pulled the lever back on the seat and layed the seat back. Eddie asked him to quit. He did my seat the same way, but I was holding on to the top of the steering wheel, and I didn't fall back or nothing. We were on down the road a little ways further, and Richard hollered, hey let me drive. That's when he hollered in Mr. Ridanour's ear. He hollered real loud, and he grabbed the steering wheel. He started playing with the steering wheel. That's when I lost control of the car.

Q.    Which hand did he grab the steering wheel with?

A.    (Illustration) The seat was here, and he reached up through with his right hand.

Q.    He grabbed it with his right hand?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Which way did he cut the wheel when he grabbed it?

A.    He just started cutting the wheel.

Q.    He grabbed it with his right hand, and he was cutting the wheel?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    You went off the road on the left hand side?

A.    Yes sir, he grabbed the wheel and started swaying the wheel, and when I caught the wheel, I lost control of the car.

Q.    When you caught the wheel. Had you turned it loose?

A.    No sir, I was just relaxed driving when he grabbed the wheel and started swaying the wheel, I tensed up and tried to get it going back straight again, I lost control.

Q.    Tell us again about that hand grabbing the wheel. Was he standing up or leaning over your back?

A.    He was sitting on the edge of the seat with his hand stuck through the - - between the seats.

Q.    What part of the steering wheel did he grab, bottom or the top, left side or right side?

A.    Right there, at the bottom.

Q.    At the bottom?

A.    Yes sir, close to the left side.

Q.    He got to wiggling the steering wheel?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    What did you do?

A.    I tried to knock his hand off the thing and gain control of the car.

Q.    What did he say when he grabbed the wheel?

A.    He said, “I’ll drive.” That's when he grabbed the wheel.

Q.    Do you know why he did it?

A.    He was playing.

Q.    Running 85 miles an hour playing?

A.    No sir, we were going 65-between 60 and 65.

Q.    Who told you to drive that car?

A.    Nobody told me to drive. I asked Mr. Santay to let me drive because I thought he was too drunk to drive.

Q.    You asked him to let you drive?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    You thought he was too drunk to drive?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Had you seen him drink anything?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    What did you see him drink?

A.    I saw him drink some beer, and I saw him drink some Wild Turkey and Sprite.

Q.    Do you have a driver's license?

A.    I do now, but then I only had my permit.

Q.    How long had you had the permit when that happened?

A.    About 48 hours

Q.    48 hours?

A.    Approximately

Q.    How old are you?

A.    17

Q.    Had you been driving that car before without a permit?

A.    I drove it once or twice before that but not on open highway.

Q.    Did you and Donald Santay live at the same house in Greenville at that time?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    You didn't leave the house with him? He picked you up on Main Street in Greenville, right?

A.    Yes, him and Mr. Ridanour left the house earlier, and me and his, Mr. Santay's brother and another friend left later, and we met 'em on Main Street in Greenville.

Q.    What's his brother's name?

A.    Tony Santay

Q.    He didn't get in the car with y'all?

A.    No sir

Q.    Just you three was in the car?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    You left Main Street in Greenville going to the beach?

A.    No sir, we left Main Street in Greenville, and we went to the house, went from the house to the store, and then we started toward the beach.

Q.    What time did y'all leave Greenville from the time you got in the car?

A.    I don't know. I don't have a watch, and I don't pay that much attention to the time.

Q.    You don't have any idea what time it was?

A.    It must have been about 12:00 or 12:30 when we left the station, maybe ­later.

Q.    I believe you stated that Santay grabbed the wheel, playing with the steering wheel, and you lost control?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    He told you he wanted to drive?

A.    He just hollered, “Let me drive”.

Q.    Why did you slow down from 85 to 65?

A.    Well, Mr. Santay was afraid that I would blow the engine up in the car, and so was I.

CORONER WILSON: Any questions?

JUROR: I’ve got one. Why did he grab it? Was he mad at you?

A.    No sir, he was just playing.

JUROR: He had already told you to slow down?

A.    Yes sir, he asked me to slow down because he was afraid I would blow the motor.

JUROR: He wasn't mad at you?

A. No

JUROR: How old was this fellow?

A. He told me he was 21. From what I hear from his brother, he was 19.

JUROR: Was he married?

A.    Yes sir

CORONER WILSON: Richard Donald Santay was 20 years old January 2 of this year. He was born January 2, 1957.

CORONER WILSON: Any further questions? That's all, Mr. Calhoun.

CORONER WILSON: This is the death certificate.

Richard Donald Santay's death was caused by basal skull fracture.

The death certificate was signed by Dr. E. J. Dickert.

CORONER WILSON: Mr. Foreman and Gentlemen, you received your charge at the beginning of this inquest. You have heard the testimony concerning this matter. Insert in your verdict the name of the party killed, the instrument with which killed and by whose hands he met death. If you find from this testimony that some party or parties other than the deceased was responsible for his death, you will recommend in your verdict that such party or parties be held for Grand Jury investigation.  (Whereupon, the jury retired, and after deliberation, returned to the courtroom and delivered the following verdict, concurred in by all jurors:)

"Richard Donald Santay came to his death as a result of a car wreck. Car was driven by Robert Sessions Calhoun. Robert Sessions Calhoun should not be held for Grand Jury Action."

 (At approximately 8:20 p.m., the inquest was concluded.)

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, COUNTY OF NEWBERRY

AN INQUISITION, indented, taken at Newberry in the County and State aforesaid, the 26th day of September A.D., one thousand nine hundred and seventy seven before I, Leroy Wilson, Coroner, upon view of the body of Hubert Ramey then and there being dead by the oaths of Ricky P. Bedenbaugh, Keith Dominick, W. F. Partridge, Lin Slaton, David H. Long, Jr., Jimmie Phibbs being a lawful jury of inquest who being charged and sworn to inquire, for the State of South Carolina where and by what I means the said Hubert Ramey came to his death, upon their oaths, do say Hubert Ramey came to his death due to smoke inhalation in his lungs in a house trailer fire. And so the said jurors aforesaid, do say, that the aforesaid Hubert Ramey came to his death in the manner aforesaid.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I, LEROY WILSON, Coroner aforesaid, and the jurors afore­said, to this inquisition. have set our hands and seals. the day and year afore­said.

                                                                                /s/ D. Leroy Wilson, Coroner (L.S.)

                                                                                /s/ Ricky P. Bedenbaugh, Foreman (L.S.)

/s/ Keith Dominick (L.S.)

/s/ W. F. Partridge (L.S.)                                                     /s/ Jimmie Phibbs (L.S.)

/s/ Lin Slaton (L. S.)                                                            /s/ David H. Long, Jr. (L.S.)

PROCEEDINGS

CORONER WILSON: Mr. Bedenbaugh, will you stand up and be sworn in as fore­man of the jury, please?

 (Foreman of the jury and members of the jury were duly sworn.)

CORONER WILSON: Gentlemen, this is an inquisition into the cause of death of Hubert Ramey, and members of this jury it is your duty to listen to the tes­timony given by the witnesses and to determine from such testimony where and by what means the said Hubert Ramey came to his death.

MR. SAMPAT BOLAND

BY CORONER WILSON:

Q.    Mr. Boland, where do you live?

A.    I live in Pomaria.

Q.    Are you connected with the Fire Department in Pomaria?

A.    I am the Fire Chief.

Q.    On July 22nd, did you have a call to go to Shealy's Trailer Park?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Tell just what happened from the time you got the call and the call and then what you saw.

A.    On the 22nd of July 1977 at 12:09, we were dispatched to go to a mobile home fire at Shealy's Trailer Park. We
        went in service at 12:09, and we arrived on the scene at 12:19 a.m. We stayed on the scene until 2:04 a.m. As we got to the scene of the fire, the mobile home was engulfed allover. The front part being engulfed more than the rest. It had already fallen in. We quickly knocked down the fire. We noticed that the - well some people around said that there might be a body in it. We immediately went to search for a body, and we did find a body face down just behind the bar in the kitchen part. At that time, we covered the body with the tarpaulin and called for the coroner and the officer.

Q.    You didn't find but one body in the trailer, did you?

A.    One body

Q.    Was the whole trailer on fire?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Did you inquire as to how this fire started, Mr. Boland?

A.    No sir, we did not.

Q.    It was burning all over when you arrived?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    I believe you stated it was approximately 12:30 when you got there.

A.    12:19 when we arrived on the scene.

Q.    Does the jury want to ask the witness any questions?

        (No questions from the jury)

CORONER WILSON: That's all, Mr. Boland, thank you.

ATTORNEY SAM PRICE: Mr. Coroner, before the witness is dismissed, if you could ask this question.

Q.    Do you have an opinion as to how the fire started?

A.    No sir, I do not.                    (WITNESS EXCUSED)

MRS. AZILEE RAINES, was first duly sworn.

ATTORNEY SAM PRICE: Mr. Coroner, if it pleases the court, at this time we do not wish for the witness to testify, and we feel that if any charges arrive from this coroner's inquest, it may well be in violation of the Fifth Amendment Right.

CORONER WILSON: I believe Mrs. Raines is not the defendant in this case. She is not the defendant. Nobody has accused her of anything. Isn't that right, Chief?

DEPUTY SUMMER: She is not charged with anything that I know of.

ATTORNEY PRICE: I am unclear at this point. I was not served with any sort of subpoena or have I seen one. Who is the potential defendant in this case?

DEPUTY SUMMER: That is for the, speaking for the Coroner, that is for the Coroner's jury to decide how the deceased came to his death. No charges have         been made by any law enforcement officer, as I know of.

ATTORNEY PRICE: So there is some potential that she can be charged?

DEPUTY SUMMER: I suppose so.

CORONER WILSON: You'll have to wait until the jury renders their verdict, please sir.

 (Deputy Summer and Coroner Wilson confer.)

CORONER WILSON: If you fellows would like to step outside, we are going to recess a little bit on this.

(Short recess)

CORONER WILSON: Gentlemen, this witness has been excused from testifying.

EDWARD RAINES, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

BY CORONER WILSON:

Q.    Mr. Raines, where do you live?

A.    Easley

Q.    Easley - what part of Easley?

A.    Right out of town, I guess.

Q.    Who do you live with?

A.    Mother

Q.    Mother - were you living with her when this house trailer caught fire that she and her brother were living in - in Pomaria?

A.    I had just come back from Rock Hill.

Q.    Were you living with her at the time?

A.    I guess so.

Q.    You ought to know.

A.    I think so. I had been staying with her about a week and a half.

Q.    You guess you were staying with your mother at the time?

A.    I was.

Q.    You was?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Okay - were you home the night that her house trailer caught fire?

A.    Me and my brothers took the truck and went over to my sister's in the trailer park that she lives in.

Q.    From about 5:00 a.m. on the afternoon, tell what happened, what you did.

A.    We went to the trailer park first. Then I went up to this here girl and boy's house up there, Randy and J. J. and stayed up there a while. I went down there to Terry Craine's house where Mama and Uncle Hubert was. They was down there drinking. I stayed down there a while.

Q.    Wait a minute. Who was down there drinking?

A.    Mama and Uncle Hubert and all the rest of them.

Q.    You were drinking too?

A.    No

Q.    Okay, go ahead.

A.    She wanted me to go to the store. She gave me the keys to the truck. Uncle Hubert asked me to wait so he could
        give me some money to get some beer. And she would not give him any money. So he went up to Randy and J. J‘s. I went on to the store, and we didn't come back right away. Mama and Mr. Craine came down the road hunting me. We come back and gave her the keys. We went up to the trailer. First, I went up to Randy and J. J. 's again, and Uncle Hubert was sitting up there drinking beer. I come back down to the trailer and went in back down at Mr. Craine's. I went back up to the trailer, and Uncle Hubert was laying there on the couch with a cigarette in his hand. He was just laying there. Me and my two brothers went to the bedroom past the kitchen and laid down. We laid down for a while, and my little brother come in with the keys and woke me up, blowing the truck horn outside with the old truck horn. Me and my other brother got up and went outside and left, and we went over to Doris' house in the other trailer park. We went over there and stayed until my brother-in-law came over there and told us, and then we come up here.

CORONER WILSON: About 5:00 p.m., did your mother and Hubert Ramey and your brother go to Lake Murray?

A.    Yeh

Q.    How many bottles, six packs of beer did y'all have down there?

A.    I don't know, they had about two six packs, I guess.

Q.    How long were you down there?

A.    We stayed about an hour and a half.

Q.    Stayed about an hour and a half, and then you came back to your mother's trailer?

A.    Yeh

Q.    Did you go in the trailer when you got back?

A.    I went in and went right back out.

Q.    I believe Mr. Hubert Ramey was your uncle?

A.    Yeh

Q.    What did he do when he came into the trailer?

A.    I don't know. I never did see him go in the trailer.

Q.    You didn't go in the trailer with him when you came back from the lake?

A.    No, I didn't go in. He went walking around the trailer, and then when he went in, I had come out and gone.

Q.    About what time did the trailer catch fire.

A.    I was gone.

Q.    You were gone.

A.    The two girls

Q.    Y'all started drinking at Mr. Craine's trailer. I believe that's what you stated, wasn't it? When you went down there, y'all were drinking?

A.    Who?

Q.    You and your mother and Craine.

A.    I drank one beer.

Q.    Well, everybody was drinking something.

A.    I guess.

Q.    Huh?

A.    I think so, everybody I saw was.

Q.    Well, you wasn't drunk yourself, were you?

A.    I wasn't drunk.

Q.    How did y'all light the trailer that y'all lived in?

A.    They had a bunch of candles.

Q.    They didn't have electric lights?

A.    No, they had done cut 'em off.

Q.    How many candles did y'all have?

A.    One sitting on the bar, one on the coffee table and a couple in the bedroom.

Q.    You had left when the trailer had caught fire?

A.    Uh-huh

Q.    How did you know, how did you find out it had caught fire?

A.    My brother-in-law came to that woman's house and told me. He come in the back door, we were sitting on the couch. He come in there and said, Ed, Uncle Hubert done burned up in the trailer.

Q.    Your brother-in-law, that's your sister that lives a few trailers from you down there? Isn't she your sister?

A.    They live over there in R. L. Murray's Trailer Park.

Q.    How far is that from where your mother's trailer was parked?

A.    About twenty miles-I5 miles-something like that.

Q.    Any questions from the jury?

Q.    What was Mr. Hubert Ramey doing the last time you saw him?

A.    Laying on the couch with a cigarette. I thought he was asleep. I didn't go over there and see. When we walked out

        the door, he was laying on the couch. .

Q.    That's when you came from the lake?

A.    No, that's when we left the last time. Me and my brothers left. We walked out the front door, and he was laying on the couch.

Q.    Y'all left in the pickup truck?

A.    Yeh

JUROR: What time was that?

A.    I thought it was about 11:30, something like that.

Q.    Do you have any idea how many beers he had drank?

A.    He was pretty drunk. He was walking kind of crooked when he come up, when we walked up the dirt road.

JUROR: Mr. Wilson, is there an autopsy report?

CORONER WILSON: Yes sir

JUROR: Did the autopsy show anything in the alcohol volume in the body?

CORONER WILSON: Mr. Summer will explain and read that to you and tell you about the autopsy, and I'll give it to you to read.

JUROR: Did the autopsy show that he was in a drunken condition, that's what we want to find out. Drunk enough that he would not be able to get out of the fire or the smoke had overcome him and not real capable of getting out of the fire.

CORONER WILSON: (Directed to Summer) Do you want to read it now?

DEPUTY SUMMER: Yes

CORONER WILSON: As the blood level was found, the individual would have been intoxicated at the time of death.

JUROR: You said when you left, your uncle, he was laying on the couch asleep. Was the cigarette burning?

A.    Yeh, it had about that much more left before it got to the filter.

JUROR: And he was asleep?

A.  I thought he was. I didn't go over there and see.

CORONER WILSON: That's all, thank you.

TERRY CRAINE, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

BY CORONER WILSON:

Q.    Mr. Craine, where do you live?

A.    Shealy's Trailer Park

Q.    Were you home the night the trailer burned?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Tell this jury what you know about it, sir.

A.    We came home from work that afternoon, and we lit the grill and char­coaled some hamburgers in the yard. They
        came by and stopped and said they had been to the lake swimming. They didn't have no lights, no power over there. A friend of mine who lived with me said we had plenty cooked, and they all ate with us. We sat around and had a few drinks, and they left and went home. I took a shower and went to bed. I woke up, and Mrs. Raines and Bobby Joe, a friend of mine, they were sitting at the table talking and laughing. That's what woke me up. I got up to drink a beer, and was sitting on the couch. I got up to go to the bathroom, that's when I noticed the fire. I looked out the window, and I

told her that I thought her trailer was on fire.

Q.    How many trailers separates yours from Mrs. Raines?

A.    One, there was only one there at the time.

Q.    Say all of you had been drinking?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Did you go up to Mrs. Raines' trailer when it was on fire?

A.    I went out and went part of the way, but there was a gang of people there, so I turned around and went back to our trailer.       .

Q.    Had you seen Hubert Ramey that afternoon?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    What time?

A.    He was down there while we were eating supper, hamburgers, and he ate too.

Q.    Did he seem to be drinking heavy at the time?

A.    Yes sir, he was pretty well intoxicated.

Q.    He left your trailer and went back to his trailer by himself?

A.    Right, Mrs. Raines and the kids were still down there at our trailer.

Q.    Any questions from the jury?

JUROR: What time were y'all eating, after dark?

A.    It had got dark.

JUROR: 8 or 9:00?

A.    I'd say 8:00 or 8:30.

JUROR: When you saw the trailer burning, not relating to the fire, could you see the trailer in the daytime from your trailer?

A.    Yes, I could see the end of it.

JUROR: How far would you estimate the distance in yards?

A.    I'd say about 75 yards.

JUROR: 75 yards - you said you see the fire burning, but you weren't exactly sure whether it was the trailer.

A.    I knew it was something because I kept hearing traffic slowing down and stopping. I got to the bathroom, and I could see the flicker in the woods. I live in the end trailer. They lived on one corner, and I lived on the other one.

        I looked out, and I knew something was on fire.

JUROR: You were inside the trailer when you see it?

A.    Yeh, I live on down the side, and I ran across and looked out the window, and I told her that her trailer was on fire.

JUROR: Was there anybody at home in the trailer between yours and theirs? You say there was one in between.

A.    I really don't know.

JUROR: Do they know who turned in the alarm, who called the Fire Department?

        (No response)

CORONER WILSON: How long was Mrs. Raines in your trailer before you noticed the fire?

A. I would say 30 to 45 minutes I know of. She was there when I woke up. I don't know how much longer she had been there.

CORONER WILSON: You know when she came, she was there when you woke up?

A.    I didn't know when she came up there. See she had left and went home in the meantime. She came back down there.

CORONER WILSON: You don't know who reported the house trailer on fire, do you?

A.    No sir, I don't.

CORONER WILSON: Any more questions from the jury?

(No questions)

CORONER WILSON: That will be all, Mr. Craine. Thank you.          (WITNESS EXCUSED)

MRS. J. T. MOORE, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows: by Coroner Wilson:

Q.    Mrs. Moore, where do you live?

A.    I live in Shealy's Mobile Home Park.

Q.    Were you home the night Mrs. Raines' trailer burned?

A.    Yes I was.

Q.    Would you please tell the jury what you know, from the time you noticed the fire, and what you did.

A.    We were sitting, my husband and I, watching TV. Johnny Carson hadn't been on but a little while. I don't know
        just how long. Our TV is in front of double windows facing the front of the mobile home park. All at once, flames seemed to be everywhere. I ran to the phone, and I didn't know how to call the Fire De­partment so I called, dialed the operator. I told her, she asked me the directions. I gave them to her. She asked me my name and my telephone number. I gave her those. Then after that, my husband and I walked part of the way down, and it was just en­gulfed with flames. We didn't go all the way down for quite some time until they got the fire under control. We didn't have any idea that there was anybody in the trailer. I thought it had been empty for some weeks.

Q.    You thought the trailer had been empty?

A.    I didn't know anyone was even in there.

Q.    You hadn't seen anybody around it?

A.    No, I don't go out much, and I had been with my mother who is ill too a lot.

Q.    This was about 12 or 12:30 at night?

A.    No sir, I don't think it was that late. I don't think Johnny Carson had been on that long, when I saw the blaze. The pine trees seemed to, blazes shooting real high in the sky.

Q.    You notified the telephone operator about the fire?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    You remember how long it was before the Fire Department arrived?

A.    It seemed to me that they got there fairly quick. Of course, I wasn't paying much attention to the time.

Q.    Would any of the jury like to ask any questions?

        (No questions)

CORONER WILSON: That will be all, Mrs. Moore, thank you. Hope your mother gets better. (WITNESS EXCUSED)

TOMMY SUMMER, being first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

BY CORONER WILSON:

Q.    Mr. Summer, state your name and address and occupation.

A.    I'm Tom Summer, I live in Newberry, Newberry County, and I'm a Deputy Sheriff for the Newberry County Sheriff's Office.

Q.    Mr. Summer, did you have a call to go down to Shealy's Trailer Park on the 22nd of July?

A.    Yes sir

Q.    Would you tell the jury just what your investigation proved, please.

A.    I was called to the scene by Lt. Morris who was shift lieutenant that night, and he had responded a fire with the
         Fire Department down there. After the fire was put out, there was a body discovered in the trailer. We conducted

an extensive investigation into the fire and the cause of it, subsequent cause of victim's death simply because of the circumstances surrounding it the fire the trailer had been unoccupied before then. I was assisted in the investigation by

Sled Arson Investigator, Rick Corley who processed the scene, and we determined these facts. I have also drawn a diagram for the jury. The victim who was iden­tified as Hubert Ramey was found face down by the sink in that area of the trailer. This would be what you call the Field Road, which goes into Peak from Pomaria, and that indicates north. The facts that we found were this. That the victim had been accompanied by his sister, Azilee Raines and that they had been drinking beer since 1:00 that day and had traveled to Newberry and Lake Murray in Ramey's pickup, and they had come to Newberry seeking a trailer to rent. I spoke to several people in Koon's Trailer Park and Matthews' Trailer Park, Sunset Drive Inn Trailer Park, Bill White's Trailer Park, and they had gone to these locations to try to find a trailer to rent. They had made all inquiry about buying a trailer at Matthews' Mobile Home Sales. Subsequently, they had Mrs. Raines' sons, Roy, Rodney, and Edward with them. They had gone back to the trailer about 8:00 that night and visited a neighbor, Bob Malone and Terry Craine. There had been some drinking. Mr. Ramey left Mr. Craine's trailer and went back to his trailer. During that time, the three sons left Mr. Craine's trailer and went toward Peak. Apparently while they were gone, Mr. Ramey left the trailer and went to visit the Vaughns who live two trailers up. I talked to the Vaughns, and they said when Mr. Ramey came up there, they couldn't see how he could walk, he was so intoxicated. The last time they saw him, he was sitting on their front steps. Apparently some time between the time the boys got back in the pickup truck, Mr. Hubert Ramey returned to the trailer. We also found that the power had been cut off and that Mrs. Raines had moved out of the trailer and had moved the furniture out. Some of the belongings and some of the furniture, not all of it. The power had been turned off. I spoke with Craig Webber who runs the trailer park, and he told me that the first of the week she had moved out with most of her belongings. She said something about the trailer being repossessed. He did not know anyone was there, but he had no control over it because it was her trailer. The boys came back from Peak, and they tell me when they left, their mother was still down at Mr. Craine's, and their uncle was in the trailer. The last time, they all told me independently, they saw him, he was laying on the couch smoking a cigarette. The trailer was illuminated by four candles. There was a coffee table in front of the couch, as I could find out. There was a candle there and a couple candles on the bar and one in the bedroom. The boys arrived at their sister's, Martha Livingston between 11:00 and 11:30. She lives in Prosperity in a trailer park near Collins-Aikman Plant. The Arson Investigator, Corley tells me that there is no doubt in his mind that the fire started in the sofa, not outside the trailer, but in the sofa because of evidence of charring. He could only conclude that the fire started from a cigarette or a candle. There was no combustion by petro­leum. The victim was sent to the Medical University of South Carolina for an autopsy and we received this report back from Dr. Sexton, the Pathologist.

He reported that the blood alcohol was .069, I'm sorry, correct that, 86 mg. which is .086, almost .09. A level of .10 would be, if this was a traffic case, a level of .10 would be a presumed intoxication. He also said that the blood carboxy­hemoglobin which is carbon monoxide in the blood was 74% saturation. Putting all this together, he stated this in his post-mortem. "The internal examination revealed no injuries or disease that would account for the deceased's death. Toxicological examination confirmed the gross impression of death due to smoke inhalation. The carbon monoxide level was well in the toxic range. There was soot lining the trachea and both bronchial trees. The deceased did have 68 mg.% of alcohol in his blood stream which may have slowed his response to smoke in the environment. It is, therefore, the opinion of this prosector in light of the history as stated in this protocol as well as the postmortem and autopsy findings that the deceased died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation in a house trailer fire. He was most probably asleep as the trailer started to fill with smoke and was overcome before he could reach the door. The only reason we could feel that the body was found where it was that there was a sink here, and Mr. Ramey awoke in the smoke and became disoriented and couldn't find his way out, or else he awoke and tried to put the fire out.

My report reflects that, the investigation revealed that the fire and the death were accidental, in my opinion, and I don't think anything will change that. The identity of Mr. Ramey was confirmed by fingerprints. I removed the, his ex­tremities were destroyed by fire except for the right forefinger, and I removed the skin myself from his right forefinger at the Funeral Home. There was enough to confirm from fingerprints we obtained from the Easley P. D. where Mr. Ramey had been arrested before for a public intoxication charge, and it was Mr. Hubert Ramey.

Q.    Mr. Summer, you went back the next day to the trailer. Did you find any limbs of the deceased in that trailer then? What was the big controversy?

A.    I received five or six calls saying bones were left in the trailer. I had gone back there on three separate occasions. What I found in the area of the kitchen was melted plastic, which apparently came from some plastic fixture or something and did have an appearance of bones, but it was melted plastic that had since solidified.

Q.    This happened in Newberry County, didn't it?

A.    Yes sir, it did.

CORONER WILSON: The jury have any questions?

JUROR: Upon your investigation, was the wall still standing? Did the trailer collapse in, or was it just burned out?

A.    When I got there, of course, the Fire Department had knocked part of it down and did not have to fight it. Most of the damage was done in this area here about like that. This area back here would have been burned out, of course, all of this was burned down. The least amount of damage was done here. Part of the walls were still standing, and the roof had collapsed in.

JUROR: When you went over to the sink, did you notice whether or not the spigots were turned on?

A.    We checked that. The spigot inside was plastic. The seal was plastic, and we could not determine whether it was        on.

CORONER WILSON: Any further questions?

        (No questions)

CORONER WILSON: That will be all, Mr. Summer. Thank you.

CORONER WILSON: Gentlemen of the jury, Mr. Summer read you the death certificate, which is signed by Dr. J. S. Sexton of the Medical College Hospital in Charleston.

CORONER WILSON: Mr. Foreman and Gentlemen, you received your charge at the beginning of this inquest. You have heard the testimony concerning this matter. Insert in your verdict the name of the party killed, the instrument with which killed and by whose hands he met death. If you find from this testimony that some party or parties other than the deceased was responsible for his death, you will recommend in your verdict that such party or parties be held for Grand Jury in­vestigation. (Whereupon, the jury retired, and after deliberation, returned to the court­ room and delivered the following verdict, concurred in by all jurors)

"We the jury find that Hubert Ramey came to his death due to smoke inhalation in his lungs in a house trailer fire."

 (At approximately 8:30 p.m., the inquest was concluded.)

 

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