DAY 3: State rests case against former Horry Co. deputy, jury sees dramatic drone video of first responders trying to open flooded van
MARION COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The trial for a Horry County deputy continued for a third day on Wednesday.
Stephen Flood is accused of causing the deaths of two mental health patients, Nicolette Green and Wendy Newton. He is charged with two counts of reckless homicide and two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
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Flood and another former deputy, Joshua Bishop, were transporting Green and Newton to behavioral health centers in Darlington and Lancaster in a prison transport van in September 2018, when it was swept away by floodwaters in Marion County.
Flood and Bishop were able to escape, but Green and Newton were locked in the back of the transport van and could not escape.
Bishop also faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the case. He will be tried separately on those charges at a later date.
At the start of the third day of the trial, there were discussions over whether drone video taken on the date of the incident, Sept. 18, 2018, should be shown to the jury. Jarrett Bouchette, Flood’s attorney, objected to it, arguing that it was not relevant because it was taken long after the incident, meaning the water in the footage was higher than it was at the time Flood drove into the water. Judge William Seals watched the video and determined that the jury would be allowed to see the video because it supports what witnesses have already testified to, and called it a factual issue.
David Dorio, a firefighter and EMT with Horry County Fire Rescue, took the stand and testified that he operated the camera of the drone, while another HCFR member, Matthew Rice, flew it. The jury watched the drone video which shows first responders trying to open the top of the van while the current was strong and water was very high.
Following the drone video, Hannah Burghard, who worked for the Horry County Sheriff’s Office in the dispatch center, testified that at 6:59 p.m., Bishop told her he could no longer hear Green and Newton inside the van. She added that every deputy has an emergency button on their radio that lets dispatch know their location, but she testified that Bishop had pushed the button but it wasn’t working and could not provide their location.
Dr. Thomas Beaver with MUSC was then called to the stand to discuss the autopsies of Green and Newton. He said that the cause of their deaths was drowning and the manner was accidental.
Another powerful testimony came from Battalion Chief Alan Starnes, who works for a fire department in Tennessee, but he was sent to South Carolina to help with Hurricane Florence water evacuations.
Starnes said he and others tried to open the top of the van by cutting through it with an axe, and then they had to cut a cage. He testified that he didn’t hear anything from anyone inside the van while this was happening.
Mindy Worley with the State Law Enforcement Division’s crime scene unit testified that the van wasn’t removed from the water until the Sept. 24, which was six days after the incident, because that’s when the water receded. Worley said SLED recovered an electronic device from the van, two body cameras, a cellphone and two padlocks that appeared to have been shot off.
After Worley’s testimony, David Dove, who works with SLED’s computer crime center, said that he couldn’t turn the cellphone on and the body cameras didn’t have SD cards in them. He testified that the electronic device from the van would be used to record incidents, locations and anyone inside the van, but he wasn’t able to get the hard drive to power up because it had been so waterlogged.
After a lunch break, Rhiannon Herring with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office was called to the stand. She stated that she received a call from Flood as he was on top of the van and that his supervisor wasn’t happy with him.
Then SLED agent Stephen Howell was called to the stand and read a statement Flood provided to the agency. In it, the former deputy said a National Guardsman let him past a barricade, saying he “was surprised, but happy, because it would save us a lot of time.”
Flood also told state authorities that he kept driving until he felt the van started to float.
The state rested its case at around 4:45 p.m., with jurors being dismissed for the day shortly after.
After the jurors were dismissed, the defense was arguing for a directed verdict because of a lack of evidence and eye witnesses.
A directed verdict is when the defense asks the judge to give a verdict rather than the jury.
Judge William Seals said there was enough evidence to proceed and did not issue a directed verdict.
The judge also gave Flood directive on whether he wants to testify. He told Flood to think about it overnight.
Looking ahead to Thursday, the defense will start to present its case.
The defense’s witness list is much shorter than the witness list of the prosecution.
One of the witnesses on the defense’s witness list is Joshua Bishop.
Stay with WMBF News for updates.
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