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Murder trial starts Monday

Posted: August 21, 2014 5:37 p.m.
Updated: August 22, 2014 6:00 a.m.

Willie Thomas Starnes


Almost exactly a year after a Bethune senior citizen lost his life over his moped, his accused killer is set to go to trial. Willie Thomas Starnes, 33, of Magnum Road Bethune, is charged with the Aug. 24, 2013, death of Alan Thomas Robinson, 67, also of Bethune. The trial is scheduled to begin Monday at the Kershaw County Courthouse.

Information released by the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) at the time of the incident said deputies arrested Starnes for murder and armed robbery after allegedly hitting Robinson on his moped with an SUV, stealing the bike, then running over Robinson with the SUV. Kershaw County Coroner Johnny Fellers said Robinson was killed by blunt force trauma.

KCSO deputies first thought Robinson was the victim of a hit-and-run accident, but determined Starnes and another suspect allegedly struck Robinson on purpose and stole the moped to finance the purchase of crack cocaine. The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the recovery of the moped from their jurisdiction.  

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said Starnes was “less than cooperative” in identifying his accomplice.

“Situations like this, which happen on a regular basis, are exactly why drug dealers do not need to be shown leniency, as has been recently proposed by the U.S. Justice Department,” Matthews said shortly after Robinson’s death. “The drugs that end up in our communities are a factor in violent crimes such as this, as they are in far too many other criminal acts.”

KCSO investigators said Robinson was able to tell them before he died that he was riding on Freeman Road near Bethune and heard a vehicle speed up behind him before he was hit. When questioned, Starnes allegedly told deputies he and his accomplice loaded the moped into the SUV and drove away, offering no assistance to the fatally injured Robinson. According to the KCSO’s report, a relative found him on the side of Freeman Road a short time later and called 911. He initially was taken by ambulance to KershawHealth in Camden, then flown to Palmetto Health Richland where he underwent surgery, but died the next day.

The KCSO said it received a tip that Starnes was involved in the incident. A KCSO investigator and a S.C. Highway Patrol Trooper went to the accident scene and found Starnes walking on the road nearby. He reportedly went to the sheriff’s office, where he detailed what had happened and was arrested Aug. 26, 2013. According to the 5th Judicial Circuit’s website, Starnes received no bond and remains in the Kershaw County Detention Center. The 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said it has informed Starnes and his attorney of their intent to seek a sentence of life without possibility of parole.

Starnes previously served 10 years in prison for a conviction for assault and battery with intent to kill after he and another person assaulted and robbed an elderly woman who died from her injuries.



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