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Horry County News and Announcements

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15th Circuit Drug Court Program 10th Anniversary Celebration

The 15th Circuit Drug Court Program is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in August. The original Horry County Drug Court, now known as Horry County Level II Drug Court, had its first meeting on August 22, 2005. At that time the capacity of the program was 10 participants, though only two were enrolled at the first meeting. Since then the 15th Circuit Drug Courts have expanded with the addition of a separate, less-intense program in Horry County- known as Horry County Level I – and a program in Georgetown County. The three combined programs have a combined capacity of 95 participants, but routinely run over 100. 

Drug Court is a judicially-supervised treatment program that targets defendants in the criminal justice system who abuse or are dependent upon drugs and/or alcohol. The Drug Court model has seen great success nationally in providing substance-abuse treatment in lieu of incarceration. By avoiding expensive incarceration, Drug Courts save taxpayer dollars. Drug Court graduates also show a much lower rate of re-arrest that those released from incarceration. 

Though substance abuse counseling is the heart of the Drug Court program (participants attend 2-3 treatment sessions weekly), the 15th Circuit Drug Courts also stress employment and stable housing. All participants are required to be employed and to pay weekly fees, which are a large part of the funding for the Drug Court. Participants also must pay restitution to the victims of their crimes. 

Though the Drug Court program is very challenging compared to other community-supervision programs such as probation or parole, many participants have met the challenge and completed the program. Since 2005, 236 participants have graduated in Horry County and 34 in Georgetown County. That is a total of 270 people diverted from imprisonment. That represents a savings of about $6 million to the South Carolina Department of Corrections alone. 

It is not just the number of graduates that determines the success of a Drug Court program, but the rate or re-arrest - or recidivism - of the graduates. The 15th Circuit Drug Courts have also accomplished a significant reduction in the recidivism rate: before Drug Court, graduates averaged 10 prior arrests, but among the 49 participants who graduated in 2013, there have been no felony convictions and only 5 misdemeanor convictions since they completed the program. 

The 15th Circuit Drug Court will hold a graduation and 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Horry County Drug Court on Thursday, August 20, 2015, in Courtroom 3B of the Horry County Judicial Center. The special Court session begins at 3 pm and will feature Senator Greg Hembree as a guest speaker. The public is invited to join the celebration and learn of the accomplishments of the Drug Court. 

For more information or to RSVP, please contact 15th Circuit Drug Court Director Candy DeBusk at (843) 915-5695. 



Loris Teen Convicted of Armed Robbery & Kidnapping

CONWAY, SOUTH CAROLINA – An Horry County Jury deliberated for about 2 hours on Friday before finding defendant Quartis Naquan Hemingway guilty of two (2) counts of Armed Robbery and two (2) counts of Kidnapping.  The Honorable Michael Nettles sentenced the defendant to eighteen (18) years of incarceration without possibility of parole. 

On January 17, 2014, the defendant contacted the victims in this case offering to sell two (2) cars to the victims for scrap metal in exchange for $500 cash; the defendant told the victims to meet him at Blue Moon Court in the Loris section of Horry County.  Upon arrival at Blue Moon Court for the transaction, the male victim was lured away from his own truck by the defendant into a wooded area with a promise of seeing the “scrap” vehicles.  Once the male victim was out of sight of the female victim, the defendant accosted him, brandishing a revolver handgun and threatening the victim’s life.  At that point, the defendant’s masked partners came out of hiding armed with rifles or shotguns.  One of the two (2) masked men went back to the male victim’s truck and forced the female victim out and into the wooded area.  The three men together tied the victims up with duct tape and demanded money, cell phones and jewelry which was eventually taken from them.  Holding the victims for approximately thirty (30) minutes, the defendants continuously threatened to kill the victims and everyone in the victim’s family if the victims were to contact law enforcement. At one point, the defendant fired the pistol in the ground between the two victims’ heads to emphasize the seriousness of his threats. Eventually, the defendants fled the crime scene and the victims were able to loosen the tape and seek assistance.

Utilizing digital resources and cell phone analysis, the Horry County Police were able determine the identity of the defendant and sought warrants for his arrest.  The defendant remained at large for approximately four (4) moths prior to his arrest. Both victims delivered powerful and emotionally charged testimony at trial telling the jury what happened to them and identifying the defendant as the man who held the gun on them and controlled the whole situation.   At sentencing, Judge Nettles succinctly but ever so accurately was able to sum the case up, calling the actions of the defendant on that day as “wicked” and deliberate.



Sentences Handed Down To Kyla Siatta, Domenic Merino & Shannon Cooper

Conway, South Carolina—In Horry County General Sessions Court yesterday, April 20, 2015, before the Honorable Benjamin H. Culbertson, criminal defendants Kyla Siatta, Domenic Merino and Shannon Cooper pled guilty to First Degree Burglary, Armed Robbery, and Kidnapping offenses.  Siatta was sentenced to serve fifteen (15) years on each charge concurrently; Merino and Cooper were sentenced to serve twenty-two (22) years on each charge concurrently.

Fifteenth Circuit Assistant Solicitors Thomas Terrell, III and Lauree Richardson were assigned to prosecute this case.  Prior to pleading guilty, all three defendants were scheduled for trial this week.

The offenses in this case occurred on the night of September 4, 2013, in the Longs section of Horry County.  Siatta, Merino, and Cooper, along with three additional co-defendants, rode together in a van to the victim’s residence.  Once the defendants unlawfully entered the victim’s home, they located one of the female residents in her bedroom.

At that point, the defendants tied up the victim, held a gun to her head, demanded money from her and repeatedly assaulted her by dragging her around from room to room.  After ransacking the place, the defendants stole a television, a gaming console, a rifle and whatever money they could find.  All six co-defendants then fled the scene in the van they arrived in.

Throughout the investigation, the Horry County Police Department were able to identify and arrest all six participants in the crime and a seventh defendant now charged with accessory after the fact.  Charges against the accessory defendant and the three remaining co-defendants are still pending in Horry County General Sessions Court.

First Degree Burglary, Kidnapping, and Armed Robbery are considered violent, most-serious offenses under South Carolina law.   This means that all three defendants must serve at least eight-five (85) percent of their sentence before being eligible for parole.

For questions about this case, contact the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office at 843-915-5460.



Armed Robbery Sentence Handed Down for John Johnson

Conway, South Carolina- Yesterday morning in Horry County General Sessions Court, criminal defendant John Johnson, 25, pled guilty to two (2) counts of Armed Robbery.  Johnson was scheduled for trial for April 20, 2015.

The Honorable John C. Hayes III accepted the guilty plea and sentenced the defendant to serve eighteen (18) years on each charge to be served concurrently at the South Carolina Department of Corrections.  Johnson must serve 85 percent before being eligible for parole.  Nancy Livesay, Violent Crimes Prosecutor for the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, represented the State of South Carolina on this matter.

On May 27th, 2013, officers responded to a report of an armed robbery at Sea Mist Motel on 309 12th Avenue South, Myrtle Beach.  Victims reported that three black males held them at gunpoint and stole their wallets and a cell phone.  A witness observed three men matching the description of the suspects running from motel and fleeing the scene in a red Dodge Charge.  The vehicle was stopped at the south end of Myrtle Beach and the victims’ property and two guns were located.

The co-defendants charged in this case have either pled guilty or are awaiting trial.



Felony DUI Sentence Handed Down for Gabriel Lee Gratto

Conway, South Carolina-Yesterday in Horry County General Sessions Court, defendant Gabriel Lee Gratto, 30, pled guilty to Felony Driving Under the Influence resulting in death, Felony Driving Under the Influence resulting in great bodily injury and Leaving the Scene of an Accident resulting in death.  Gratto was scheduled to stand trial on the aforementioned charges with jury selection to begin today.

Yesterday morning, the Honorable John C. Hayes, III accepted the guilty plea and sentenced the defendant to serve fifteen (15) years at the South Carolina Department of Corrections without possibility of parole. Senior Assistant Solicitor Bradley C. Richardson of the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office represented the State on this matter.

This incident occurred on May 15, 2013, when Gratto met with a group of friends at a local golf course in the North Myrtle Beach section of Horry County; during the course of that afternoon of golfing, Gratto consumed several alcoholic beverages.  Upon leaving the golf course, Gratto and his companions travelled to a local bar where they then consumed more alcohol.  At around 6:30 p.m., Gratto paid his bar tab, got behind the wheel, and drove south on Highway 31 toward the south end of the Myrtle Beach where he resided.

While traveling on Highway 31, several witnesses observed the defendant’s erratic and reckless driving and attempted to call law enforcement, utilizing both Horry County 911 and Star HP (*47), to contact the South Carolina Highway Patrol.  Prior to the South Carolina Highway Patrol being able to intercept the impaired driver, Gratto exited Highway 31, traveled down Highway 544 and eventually to Secondary Highway 394 near the Prestwick Golf Course.

Unfortunately, at that time, victims Ms. Joan Errickson and her fiancĂ© Mr. Charles Roach were travelling along the same road in the opposite direction of Gratto when they observed his Jeep Wrangler veer over into their lane.  While Ms. Errickson attempted to escape the oncoming Jeep by pulling far onto her shoulder of the road, Gratto’s Jeep violently struck into her Buick LeSabre on the driver’s side door at a speed of approximately 51 MPH.  The collision was captured on a security video that was later provided to the State by Prestwick.

The video further showed Gratto exit his own vehicle, peer into Ms. Errickson’s Buick and look into her window to see she and Mr. Roach trapped in the vehicle, prior to running away from the scene on foot. Ms. Errickson was pronounced dead at the scene and Mr. Roach was rushed to the hospital for treatment of his injuries.  They were planning to marry that summer.

Gratto was located a short time later at his home and brought back to the scene where he was administered a field sobriety test, which he failed.

Thereafter, the defendant was charged with the aforementioned crimes.  The investigation revealed that the defendant’s Blood Alcohol Content was well above the legal limit for impairment.



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