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Sheriff: Brutal murder a 'death penalty case'

Posted: December 29, 2011 3:48 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said he has asked the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office to seek the death penalty against 23-year-old Nickolas Jermaine Miller of Jefferson. Kershaw County and Chesterfield County deputies arrested Miller Monday after he confessed to abducting and raping Beverly Hope Melton, 30, of Kershaw and then beating her to death with a baseball bat.

“We are consulting with the solicitor, asking his office to proceed with a death penalty prosecution,” Matthews said. “It is a lengthy, expensive, drawn-out process, but I feel that this meets the criteria of a death penalty case.”

Matthews said death penalty murder cases must have some type of aggravating circumstance attached to them. He said that in his mind, Melton’s murder rises to that level.

“This was a brutal abduction, with multiple sexual assaults and a horrific beating. She suffered,” the sheriff said.

The story began early Monday afternoon when Melton stopped in at a convenience store, which Matthews has now identified as Jack’s Convenience Store on South Main Street in Jefferson on the Chesterfield County town’s southern limit.

A short time later, according to Matthews, Melton called her grandmother to say she was being followed. Based on that information, a search began for Melton’s car. It was found in a ditch on Angelus Road, several miles from Jefferson, still running and set in reverse.

At that point, Matthews said, CCSO deputies went to Jack’s and viewed security footage showing Miller harassing Melton. He said they could clearly see his face and the make, model and color of his car. A deputy spotted Miller in his vehicle sometime later, pulled him over and asked him to come to Jefferson Town Hall. Miller agreed, following the deputy.

Matthews said Miller was questioned by Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker and deputies during which Miller confessed to abducting, raping and killing Melton. Matthews said Parker asked Miller to take him to Melton’s body, which he did, leading them to a site on Sandy Grove Road in Kershaw County some 10 miles away.

Even when they arrived, it took a number of CCSO deputies and a S.C. Law Enforcement Division helicopter to precisely locate Melton’s body. Matthews described the site as the location of two long turkey barns. He said it appeared as though Miller raped her at that location and then beat her to death with the baseball bat.

Matthews said his investigators are still working on exactly what motivated the crime, saying it still does not appear as though Miller and Melton knew each other. Tuesday, the sheriff said Miller claimed he had just been fired from a department store and that his girlfriend had kicked him out. Wednesday afternoon, Matthews said that part of Miller’s story appears to check out.

“We’ve spoken to the girlfriend,” he said.

Miller is still at the Kershaw County Detention Center, held on charges of murder filed by Kershaw County and kidnapping and sexual assault from Chesterfield County. Matthews said there is a possibility Kershaw County will also charge Miller with a sexual assault charge.

Matthews also said because murder is a capital offense and with the death penalty possibly on the table, a circuit court judge will set Miller’s bond. He estimated the first opportunity to do so would come Jan. 9.

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