First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe said murder charges have been successfully tried in South Carolina even when the victim’s body has been missing.
“There have been convictions before where there hasn’t been a body,” he said. “Our laws do not reward a criminal in a case where there is a disposal of the body.”
Pascoe said he could not comment specifically on the case of Kimberly Parrish, the 40-year-old mother of two small children who was reported missing just four days before Christmas. The body of the West Columbia woman has not been recovered.
Kenneth Cutter, 37, of Wolfton, has been charged with murder in connection with her disappearance. He appeared before an Orangeburg County magistrate on New Year’s Eve to be formally presented his rights, which include a bond hearing before a circuit court judge.
He can also apply for a preliminary hearing. As of yet, no preliminary hearing has been scheduled.
It’s not clear if Cutter has retained an attorney.
Cutter is currently being housed at the Orangeburg County Detention Center, awaiting his next legal procedure.
Authorities, meantime, are building their case against him. They say it is more difficult to try a case without a victim, but it can be done.
Pascoe prosecuted one of the first victimless cases in the Palmetto State in 2003 when authorities charged 39-year-old Jeffery Weston with murdering his mother.
A retired school teacher, 78-year-old Frances Franchey went missing in late 1998. That case is similar to the Parrish case in that there was no body, no confession and no witnesses.
The added burden to the state’s case is they have to prove Parrish was in fact killed.
At a press conference a week after the West Columbia mother was reported missing, Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said forensic evidence, blood and DNA found at an abandoned Wolfton house “scientifically” showed that Parrish was dead.
Authorities have not publicly reported a motive or evidence indicating why Cutter has been charged.
Investigators have not said if Cutter has given an alibi or an alternate version of what might have happened.
Weston explained his mother’s disappearance with a story that she ran off with a boyfriend.
Authorities didn’t buy it.
“A cold, evil, malignant heart, a person void of social responsibility,” Pascoe said in opening statements during Weston’s trial. “These are the traits of a man who would kill his own mother.”
A jury agreed, finding the Richland County man guilty. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Five years later, while his appeal for a new trial was being considered, Weston confessed. He led authorities to a site near his mother’s apartment complex where he hid her dismembered body.
The search for Parrish has been ongoing since her Orangeburg County connections were discovered. Her vehicle was discovered at a North Road church about two miles from Cutter’s residence.
Crews have since searched waterways, wells and used cadaver dogs and search lines to comb the heavily wooded terrain surrounding Wolfton.
The vehicle has been processed for evidence but authorities have not said what, if anything, was found inside.
They said that at the time the DNA evidence was discovered at the Wolfton residence, Parrish’s clothing was also located.
That’s more than has ever been found of a 19-year-old Marshall University student who fell victim to two escaped inmates who went on a two-week crime spree that passed through South Carolina.
In 2002, Samantha Burns of West Virginia and Alice Donovan of South Carolina went missing after being kidnapped and carjacked.
Surveillance cameras at a Conway department store captured Donovan’s kidnapping. The two men accused of abducting her were later captured but Donovan’s body wasn’t located.
Prosecutors still went to trial in September 2004.
Chadrick Fulks, 25, and Branden Basham, 21, were both sentenced to death by federal juries for Donovan’s murder. They also pleaded guilty to Burns’ death and were sentenced to life in prison.
Like Franchey, Donovan’s remains were found after one of her murderers confessed. She was found near the North Carolina border about 15 miles from where she was abducted.
Burns went missing Nov. 11, 2002. Police found Burns’ torched vehicle while it was still smoldering.
Her body has to this day not been recovered.