COLUMBIA -- A pile of charred belongings. A few specks of blood. A shoe with traces of gasoline.
Those are a few of the pieces of circumstantial evidence used against Roger Bostick of Jasper County. The 58-year-old was put away in 2001 after a jury found him guilty of murdering his neighbor, Sarah Polite, in March of 1999.
On Monday the S.C. Supreme Court reversed Bostick’s conviction and a circuit court's 30-year sentence, a decision that could set him free by the end of the month.
Polite, the treasurer and secretary of her church, was 69 when she was found inside a burning home she had shared with her son Rudy in Pineland, S.C. An autopsy showed she had been bludgeoned but died from carbon monoxide from the fire. Firefighters had kicked in the back door and discovered her corpse and a blood-spattered briefcase in the kitchen.
The S.C. Attorney General has 15 days to petition for a rehearing, which spokesman Mark Plowden said Monday the office will do.
“If the Supreme Court's order stands, Mr. Bostick will go free,” said Plowden.
What then for Bostick, who will have spent nearly a decade of his life in prison?
"This isn’t about suing anybody. This is about justice for an individual," said the man’s attorney, chief appellate defender of the S.C. Commission on Indigent Defense Bob Dudek. "Suing somebody - that’s not even in (the) furthest back of anybody's mind."
In its 5-0 decision, the Supreme Court said prosecutors simply had not proven that Bostick was the killer. Given the unanimous vote, Dudek said it was unlikely the state would be granted a rehearing.
Two days after the murder, investigators had found a burn pile of Polite’s possessions at a neighboring house owned by Bostick’s mother. There were two sets of car keys, toenail clippers, pens, burned paper, a metal clasped ring of a purse, and a watch. Kerosene or diesel fuel had been fueled the fire.
But the court on Monday noted that Bostick had never been linked to the victim’s belongings or to the crime scene.
When Bostick’s shoes were examined, investigators found traces of gasoline, which was also the substance that was used to set Polite’s house on fire.
During his 2001 trial, the now-defunct Carolina Morning News reported that Bostick said the fuel on his shoes could have come from starting the fire at an oyster roast, burning brush on the family's 100-acre farm, or changing the fuel pump in his car the afternoon before the murder.
The newspaper had reported that Bostick’s attorney Russell Keep had described the blood found on his client’s clothing as, “microscopic, not visible to the naked eyes except under very close inspection.”
A DNA analysis to determine whether the blood on Bostick’s jeans matched Polite was inconclusive.
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