The trial for the 2003 murder of Joseph Pope, a 21-year-old officer at the Georgetown County Detention Center, is now underway.
Joey Pope’s wife, Keri Pope, and cousin, Chris Miller, are both charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Keri Pope, 18-years-old at the time of the murder, claims that on May 27, 2003, around 11:30 p.m., a man came to the couple house on Highmarket Street inquiring about a truck that was for sale in the front yard. During the conversation between her and the man, Keri was grabbed by the throat and pushed down as a second man forced his way into the house and to the bedroom where Joey slept. She said that her husband was shot in the head four times and the family’s pit bull was fatally shot before the men ran out the back door. Keri and the couple’s daughter, Zoey, were unharmed.
Investigators found that two men were at the house inquiring about the truck on that night but it was several hours before the murder.
After a five year investigation into the murder, Keri Pope and Chris Miller were both arrested and charged in November 2008.
At the time of the arrest, Miller was already incarcerated at Lieber Correctional Facility in Ridgeville for an incident that occurred in October 2007. According to records, Miller went to a home to purchase marijuana but was unsatisfied with the drugs he received. He became irate causing an altercation with a 30-year-old man in which he proceeded to stab the man with a box cutter. The man survived but required surgery. Miller was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill.
During the murder trial, Deputy Solicitor Scott Hixson will try to prove that Keri Pope and Chris Miller killed Joey so the two could continue their romantic relationship that started in high school.
Pope’s defense attorney, John Hilliard who is known for his courtroom drama, and Miller’s attorney, Wesley Locklair, will try to prove that the murder was retaliation for work Joey did in an undercover drug sting operation with the Georgetown Police Department. Locklair stated that evidence will prove that Miller was not at the residence the night Joey was killed.
On Tuesday, both defense teams targeted the police and investigators of the case. Julia Bass who is assisting Hilliard said that police were “scraping at the bottom of the barrel”. Locklair stated that Glen Kufen, the lead investigator, was “an embarrassment to the Georgetown Police Department” and that it was “almost sad this guy was in charge of the investigation”.
Statements made at earlier hearings about Joey Pope using drugs at the time of his murder prompted the testimony of Dr. Susan Preznell. Dr. Preznell was the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy. According to the doctor, Pope tested negative for drugs and alcohol after his death.
A motion for mistrial by Bass was denied by Judge Steven John after Hixson compared the case to the Susan Smith case saying that Smith lied about the way her children died like Pope is lying about the way her husband was killed. Judge John spoke to the jurors of twelve women and four men individually before he denied the motion.
A female juror has been replaced by an alternate juror after she fell asleep during Tuesday’s trial. She had admitted that she missed most of the day’s testimony due to a condition that causes her to fall asleep easily. Judge John ultimately dismissed her.
More details on the trial will be posted as they become known.