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Traffic fatality may be homicide

Posted: May 10, 2011 7:50 p.m.
Updated: May 11, 2011 5:00 a.m.

What initially appeared to be a fatal automobile accident on Black River Road last month may actually have been a homicide.

The S.C. Highway Patrol was called to the scene of a single-car accident April 16. Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said the driver and only occupant of the car, James Corey Beaufort, 36, was initially thought to have been killed after his Ford Focus ran off the side of the road, hit several trees, flipped and landed on its roof before bursting into flames.

Matthews said Kershaw County Coroner Johnny Fellers requests autopsies on all burn victims. With preliminary autopsy results, Fellers alerted Matthews to the possibility that Beaufort may have been shot in the head. Metal fragments taken from the victim were sent to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division for analysis, but tests so far have been inconclusive.

While the pathologist who performed the autopsy believes the wound to Beaufort’s head is consistent with that of a gunshot wound, Matthews said, Fellers is “not totally convinced the head wound is the result of a gunshot, but so far there is no other explanation for the wound.”

An investigation into Beaufort’s death is now underway, the sheriff said. He said he and Fellers met with Beaufort’s parents Monday.

“I told Mr. and Mrs. Beaufort that we are treating this case as a homicide until we can prove otherwise or until we find the person responsible. Obviously, this came as a shock to Mr. and Mrs. Beaufort, but they are anxious to find out what really happened to Corey, their only son,” said Matthews.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Lt. Chris Phillips with the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office at 425-1512.

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