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Home  |  News  |  Who killed Merry Shivers?

Who killed Merry Shivers?
Monday, November 28, 2011

CAYCE, SC - Cayce police and SLED are set to reopen the 10-year-old unsolved killing of Merry Shivers and devote significant time to the long-cold case.

Shivers, a 37-year-old mother of two, was working as a part-time cashier at the Cayce Piggly Wiggly to earn Christmas-shopping money for her children. She was gunned down near her cash register by men wearing ski masks during a nighttime armed robbery. She died at the scene.

Cayce police said they will hold a news conference Wednesday — on the 10th anniversary of Shivers’ killing — to announce their new effort, which will include a Facebook page and a 3-D video reconstruction of the killing.

“We’ve talked with profilers about the best way to get this out,” said Cayce police Chief Charlie McNair. He said SLED will be contributing help in several technologically advanced crime specialties but declined to divulge details.

Cayce — across the Congaree River from Columbia; population 12,150 — doesn’t see many murders. It can have three one year and then go several years without one. There have been “six or seven” killings since Shivers’ death, and all but her case have been solved, McNair said.

Relatives and friends say Shivers was a joyful woman whose loss still hurts. They plan to hold a candlelight vigil Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the grocery store, at 3040 Charleston Highway.

“We still miss Merry. We haven’t forgot her, and we won’t forget her,” said Stan Shivers, 57, her husband and one of a dozen of Shivers’ relatives representing three generations who came to the Cayce police station recently to speak with a reporter. Dozens more relatives and friends could have come, Shivers said.

Relatives described her as “the glue that held our family together” — a woman known for her wisdom and good counsel, as well as her love of children and happy occasions.

“After she died, I had people come up to me and say they went out of their way to shop at that Piggly Wiggly just so they could talk with Merry,” Stan Shivers said.

The robbers also shot and wounded a 16-year-old clerk, David Miles. Miles, traumatized at the time, went on to become a paratrooper in the U.S. Army. He served three tours in Iraq and is now stationed in South Korea, his mother, Tammy Miles, 43, said.

“He was standing there at Merry’s register when it happened,” Tammy Miles said. “The same bullet that hit her, hit him. When I got there that night, he came out the door, holding his arm. He didn’t even realize he’d been shot. He was holding his arm — kept saying, ‘Momma, she’s dead. Why’d they do that?’”

David Miles and the other youths who worked at the store “thought the world of Merry,” Tammy Miles said. Although badly shaken and on pain medications, he insisted on going to her funeral “because he cared so much about her,” she said. “She saved his life in a way . . . ”

Five weeks after the crime, Cayce police arrested three men and charged them in Shivers’ killing. But the case fell apart because officials said there wasn’t enough evidence to go to trial.

In 2003, 11th Circuit Solicitor Donnie Myers said the police didn’t have enough evidence for his prosecutors to even negotiate a plea bargain — a compromise middle ground in which a criminal pleads guilty to get a lighter sentence than if a jury found him guilty.

Myers, who has won more death-penalty convictions than any other state solicitor, is considered one of the state’s most aggressive prosecutors.

In 2003, when Myers refused to go forward with the case, McNair told a State newspaper reporter that his department had arrested the right men.

“It’s not a question about re-charging them,” McNair said at the time. “Basically, we set aside the charges temporarily.”

These days, the Lexington County clerk of court’s office has no record that the three men were ever arrested and charged in Shivers’ murder.

A clerk said arrest records are destroyed after seven or eight years if a grand jury doesn’t indict someone. In this case, no indictments were ever made.

At the time, however, The State reported on the arrests of the three men on murder charges and their release due to lack of evidence. They were:

• Marshall Mack, 33, now serving a 20-year sentence in state prison for distributing crack cocaine.

• John W. Sutton, 29, who was recently charged in Lexington County with attempted murder, discharging a gun into a dwelling and possession of a gun by a convicted felon. He is out on $125,000 bond, according to records in the Lexington County courthouse, but was not available for comment.

• Courtney S. Geiger, approximate age 29. His whereabouts are unknown.

McNair said he won’t comment on any possible suspects at this time. But he said he was accurately quoted in 2003 about “setting aside” the charges.

Memories of the killing are still fresh for some.

Kelly Shivers O’Neal, 22, Merry’s daughter, was just 12 when her grief-stricken father, Stan, hugged her and told her what happened.

“After all this time, it still hurts,” she said. Part of the tragedy is that Merry didn’t live to see any of her three grandchildren, all born after she was shot, O’Neal said.

“She was my best friend,” she said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Momma — not a day.”

Piggly Wiggly is still offering a $10,000 reward.

The store where the slaying took place is — from a robber’s point of view — an attractive place.

Located off Charleston Highway near I-77, the store is down a hill and well out of sight of passing motorists, in the middle of a small shopping center.

And the shopping center straddles four highways. In less than two minutes, a robber’s getaway car can be headed in a half-dozen different directions — on I-77 or I-26, or traveling south to Swansea, or north toward Cayce, or even west towards South Congaree.

Since Shivers’ shooting, the store has radically upgraded security, employees said. Security cameras now hang from the ceiling; there were none in 2001. Lighting has been improved inside and outside the store. Procedures have been changed in placement of workers, cash registers and storage of cash to make a successful robbery far more unlikely than it was in 2001.

Police reports at the time said the robbers, who were wearing ski masks, dark clothes and latex gloves, entered the store and began shooting. After hitting Shivers and 16-year-old David Miles, they made off with bank bags containing cash. Police didn’t disclose how much was stolen.

The case will be tough to solve. Not only have 10 years gone by, police appear not to have much to go on.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle,” said Jack Swerling, a Columbia defense attorney who in the past 30 years has handled some of the state’s highest-profile murder cases. “Evidence disappears. Witnesses’ memories go hazy.”

To bring charges successfully after 10 years, police will need fairly irrefutable evidence, Swerling said. That could include a credible eyewitness who wasn’t found years ago, new scientific evidence that ties a suspect to the scene, a confession, or someone who heard one of the killers make incriminating statements, Swerling said.

“But it’s not unheard of for a successful case to be made after all this time,” said Swerling. New advances in technology involving fired bullets could give police the kind of hard evidence they need, he said.

Shivers was killed with a 9mm bullet that was recovered, police said.

McNair said he’s haunted by the perpetrators being still at large.

“These are just dangerous people. They have no thought about life,” he said. That’s why “we’re not putting this on the shelf.”

Source: http://www.thestate.com/2011/11/27/2060349/it-still-hurts-officials-reopening.html

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