WMBF Investigates: Who killed Barry Bolton?

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Police are reopening a cold case murder that has baffled detectives for more than a decade. It was one of the most savage murders the county has ever investigated.

Yet today, the case is as cold as the day the victim was found. It's a cold case murder that just seemed to hit a new roadblock at every turn.

It was back on April 16, 2000 when a young father and his son were riding their ATV's near a pond next to the State Branch Cemetery off Beverly Road in Conway. In the pond, they saw the body of what appeared to be a young man. It was a sight neither of them will ever forget. They immediately called 911 and so began one of the most unusual investigations Horry County Police have ever encountered.

The pond is tucked in the woods in Horry County. Only a local would even know it's here. It's a place where kids are known to sneak a beer or a cigarette far from a parent's prying eyes.

The body investigators were now looking at had clearly been there for days. It was bloated beyond recognition. There were visible injuries. Cuts, bruising, and stab wounds convinced detectives this was no accidental drowning.

But there was something about the condition of this body that told police it was someone the victim knew, and not some random attack.

Lt. Jamie DeBari was the lead detective in the case.

"Well, we got more of that when we actually attended the autopsy and discovered that his, he had several stab wounds and his skull had been fractured into 118 pieces," Lt. DeBari said. The investigation hit its first snag.

"For about five or six months it took to identify him due to the distortions from the water and also the blunt force trauma that he suffered to his head and face," Lt. DeBari said, meaning this murder investigation could go nowhere until a name could be matched to the victim.

Police sent out one media release after another, hoping for a break, including a picture of a unique tattoo on the victim's right arm. The mother of one of the victims friends eventually came forward. The body found in the pond was 27-year-old Barry Bolton.

"Barry Bolton, from what I could tell - he worked odd jobs in the area at the time," explained Lt. DeBari. "He didn't really stay in one place. He didn't have a lot of friends, but there were those who knew him through his working, and also the friendships he had made in the area."

Bolton was also known to use illegal drugs and ran with a questionable crowd. After questioning dozens of people who knew Bolton, Horry County Police had their suspect, but they didn't have enough physical evidence to make an arrest. Then, that suspect died of a drug overdose a few months later.

Detectives think they know who did this, but are also convinced there were others involved.

"I believe that there's also other people out there who know who did this, but were always afraid of these individuals to come forward," Lt. DeBari said.

With their prime suspect dead, and so much time passed, detectives in this case are hoping the fear that may have gripped those who know something about this murder has passed, and they will come forward and tell what they know. The family deserves it, the public deserves it.

The only court records related to Barry Bolton involve a pair of evictions. He was not a convicted criminal, and he was not considered a violent person. If you have any information on Barry Bolton's murder, please contact the Horry County Police.

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