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Man accused of meth lab murder fires lawyer

Posted: October 28, 2011 4:06 p.m.
Updated: October 31, 2011 5:00 a.m.

A man believed to be responsible for the shooting death of a woman found dead in a Lugoff methamphetamine lab fired his lawyer during a short hearing at the Kershaw County Courthouse Thursday afternoon.

Gregory Vincent Smith, 49, asked Circuit Court Judge James R. Barber III to release Camden attorney William Tetterton from the case. Barber asked Tetterton if he wished to be relived. Tetterton said yes and Barber assigned the Kershaw County Public Defender’s Office to the case.

Chief Public Defender Neil J. Riley said there might be a conflict of interest between his office and Smith. Brett Perry, of the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, told Barber that Tetterton only took on the case on a pro bono basis because no public defenders were assigned to Smith when he was arrested in May.

“He won’t listen to my advice,” Tetterton said when Barber asked him about being relieved.

Barber said a public defender would have to represent Smith until such time as a conflict of interest is discovered.

Smith is awaiting trial on charges of murder, manufacturing meth and marijuana, and bringing contraband into the Kershaw County Detention Center (KCDC). He is accused of being involved with David Lee Tyler, 56, and his wife, Debra Lee Tyler, 59, in operating a meth lab and growing marijuana at one of two mobile homes on the Tyler’s property on U.S. 601 South in Lugoff.

Deputies responded to the home around 12:45 p.m. May 28 in response to a domestic disturbance and shots fired. They were met by David Tyler who said his wife had gone to a neighbor’s house. Deputies found Debra Tyler’s body with a gunshot wound to the head in another mobile home on the property and realized they had walked into an active meth lab. Deputies also found 100 marijuana plants that, at full maturity, could have been worth a total of $200,000.

David Tyler named Smith as his wife’s possible killer. Deputies found Smith walking along Screaming Eagle Road near the Richland County line and arrested him.

David Tyler reportedly flew into a rage upon learning his wife was dead. Even after Smith’s arrest, he continued to cause problems and was charged with public disorderly conduct. David Tyler died while being transported to the KCDC. It is believed he died from effects associated with long-term meth use.

Investigators believe Smith shot Debra Tyler during an argument.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control assisted in the case and in cleaning up the property. Six deputies ended up at KershawHealth to be treated or checked for symptoms from being exposed to meth fumes.

Perry said Smith’s case is unlikely to be called before the end of the year.

Also Thursday, one of three men connected to a series of auto break-ins and HVAC thefts pleaded guilty to six charges. Kershaw County deputies arrested Kasey Todd Dinkins, 19, in mid-May along with two co-defendants, Cody Jackson, 20; and Dylan Johnson, 18.

Dinkins pled guilty Tuesday to three grand larceny charges, two criminal conspiracy charges and one injury to real property to obtain nonferrous metals charge. Perry said the maximum sentences for all six charges combined could have been up to 40 years in prison.

Instead, deeming Dinkins the least culpable of the trio, Perry recommended a sentence of only 10 years, suspended on three years active service and five years probation.

“We’re concerned about him getting out to pay back the victims, including two churches,” Perry said.

Specifically, Perry said Dinkins was charged with helping to steal a total of six HVAC’s from a home and a church, including five 5-ton units from Concord Baptist Church on Porter Cross Roads. Perry said he was also charged with helping another man steal jewelry from that man’s mother.

Dinkins is already an inmate at Trenton Correctional Institution in Edgefield, serving a three-year sentence on malicious injury to real property charges out of Richland County. Barber appeared to be upset by the idea that Dinkins would not have any additional time added to his sentence for the Kershaw County crimes.

“I don’t see how he can go on a crime spree like this and only spend three years in jail,” Barber said.

Perry said the solicitor’s office does not believe Dinkins to be the leader of the three-man theft ring.

“We believe the three conspired to steal the air conditioning units from the church and sell them for scrap,” Perry said. “We believe all three monetarily benefited from that theft.”

Dinkins admitted he did “not chose (his) friends wisely.”

Riley said Dinkins has a serious drug problem; Dinkins admitted his drugs of choice were cocaine and marijuana.

“We think this is a good sentence so he can take responsibility and make restitution,” Riley said.

“Either way, he’s getting off easy,” Barber said. “We’re looking the other way, under any circumstances. Basically, he’s getting noll processed and only having to pay $1,500 restitution for thousands of dollars worth of (HVAC) units. He’s got to pay the price.”

A member of Concord Baptist Church urged Barber to make Dinkins spend more time in jail.

“All these guys live right there in the community,” she said. “They drive by every day. The church has been there forever; it’s not large. They have terrorized the community, to be honest with you.”

The woman said the church’s insurance company has had to pay out $17,000 to replace the HVAC units and hiked the church’s premiums in the process.

Barber ended up sentencing Dinkins to a total of nine years in prison, but suspended the sentence on five years active service -- extending his time in prison by two years -- and three years probation. Barber also ordered Dinkins to pay restitution once he is released and undergo drug counseling.

Johnson is still out on bond while Barber sent Jackson back to jail Oct. 19 following what was supposed to be a plea hearing. Jackson, who was set to plead guilty to three of 35 auto break-in charges, said he was only pleading guilty in order to “get on with his life.” Barber rejected the plea.

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