Seven years have passed since an early-morning shooting in which an unknown assailant wielded an SKS-type assault weapon left two wounded and one dead in his wake.
Bill Powell was killed on Nov. 22, 2005, as the still-unknown shooter continued in his attempt to carjack a vehicle.
Constance Davidson was shot in the back as she fled in her car from the Burger King drive-through on Highway 25 near I-20. The assailant then ran to the Huddle House parking lot, where he shot the Rev. Earl Carter in the neck and killed Powell. From there, he moved on to Ida Mae Heath, who was at the Circle K Bojangles next door. She gave up her car and was unharmed. The Oldsmobile was found several hours later in the parking lot of the Sleep Inn with 300 additional miles on the odometer, but the shooter has never been found.
Since that day, local law enforcement has followed every lead, no matter how far-fetched, including working with “America's Most Wanted” to get the case before the national public – all to no avail.
Lt. Tim Thornton, now the spokesman for the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, was the lead investigator on the case.
When asked about solving the case this far down the road, he said, “Anything is possible.”
He referenced Doug Hixon, a retired SLED investigator, who said the oldest unsolved on his list was a case that was solved 25 years later.
Thornton said at this point they're hoping for something to connect to the evidence they were able to gather at the time.
“If we could find the gun, then we could make a connection,” he said by way of example.
Thornton pointed out they have evidence that would support prosecution, “if and when we identify the shooter.”
But, as time goes on, some things get harder and harder, he said.
He suggested that, if someone asks you where you were a year ago on Thanksgiving, for example, “you could probably be fairly specific.” However, he noted that if someone asked where you were seven years ago on Thanksgiving, it gets a lot more difficult. “But just because you can't remember doesn't mean you're a person of interest,” he said.
Thornton said occasionally they get a lead that looks like it might be useful, but those are getting fewer. He noted someone he knew recently asked law enforcement to test a gun that fit the general description of the one used on that day in 2005. According to the lieutenant, the man explained he'd given the gun to his son who had recently passed away. The son had loaned the gun to a friend, and the dad was able to get the weapon back. “His son was known to run with some suspicious types,” said Thornton, so the dad asked to test the gun to rule it out.
“That's the type of thing we're getting now,” he commented, explaining the NADPS has gone through all the tips from people who thought maybe the sketch released at the time might look like a cousin or friend or some other relative.
Thornton said the case had been given a fresh set of eyes with a new detective. “But it's a cold case with little concrete evidence to follow,” he added.
He admitted he had high hopes for the segment on “America's Most Wanted,” but nothing really came from that, either.
The detective is still hopeful, though. “Solving this murder would be a wonderful thing for everyone involved, especially the families of our victims.”
A composite drawing continues to be circulated, but the gunman is still in the wind after seven years.
The gunman was described as a white male, 20 to 25 years old, 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-8 inches tall and about 180 pounds. He had brown eyes, dark eyebrows and sandy brown hair. During the shooting, he was wearing a heavy multicolored jacket, black or blue ski mask and heavy brogans.
Investigators say they think the gun was an SKS assault rifle, which looks like a short-barrelled pistol with a fold-down stock.
Anyone who may have information about the shooting can call North Augusta Public Safety at (803) 279-2121.