AIKEN -- Circuit Judge Rodney Peeples imposed a gag order Thursday in the death penalty case of Arthur Hastings Wise, the man charged with killing four workers at R.E. Phelon Co. in September 1997.
The gag order seals the record and prevents attorneys from talking about the case.
During a four-hour hearing, the judge also refused to declare a change of venue. That means hundreds of local residents will be called for jury duty and interviewed about their knowledge of the case and whether they could be fair and impartial to Mr. Wise. A trial date, though, has not been set.
The killings of four people at R.E. Phelon generated much publicity in 1997, especially since it came almost exactly one year after three people were killed at the Department of Social Services office in North Augusta. David Mark Hill is charged in the DSS killings.
The Hill trial, postponed until Jan. 24, was moved to York County for jury selection because too many residents in Aiken County knew about the case or had strong feelings about the defendant. The trial will then be held in Aiken.
Second Circuit Solicitor Barbara Morgan has stated she would like to go to trial with the Phelon case in January, but the Hill postponement ties up the court during that time.
Thursday's hearing allowed Ms. Morgan and defense attorneys Gregory Harlow and Marty Puetz to address 52 pending motions in the Wise case, many of them typical motions in a death penalty case. The motions address a number of issues -- jury sequestering, the legality of the death penalty and questions about evidence.
The hearing was the first court appearance here for Mr. Wise, who was dressed in yellow jail garb with a green jail jacket. He had a goatee and a mustache that was braided on both ends.
Mr. Wise is charged with four counts of murder, three counts of assault with intent to kill, four counts of possession of a gun while committing a violent crime and burglary.
Sheryl Wood, 27, David Moore, 30, Leonard Filyaw, 31, and Charles Griffeth, 50, were killed in the shootings on Sept. 15, 1997. Those who were wounded include Jerry Corley, John Mucha and Stan Vance.
Police said Mr. Wise shot Mr. Vance, who was a security guard at the plant, and then walked through the plant, firing a semi-automatic handgun. He had been fired from the plant about two months earlier.
Mr. Wise is being held at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, S.C.
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.
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