HANAHAN — Three people accused of killing a 71-year-old man knew Roy Bennett and knew that he had money and maybe a few secrets, authorities said Friday.
Hanahan Police Chief Mike Cochran described 24-year-old Brittany Lyn Swagner, 24-year-old Robert Andrew McFadden and 39-year-old Robert Randolph Clark as “crack fiends.”
Cochran also described Clark as a “friend of a friend” of a woman who accused Bennett of preying on her as a child.
Swagner and McFadden appeared in Hanahan municipal court Friday morning, where a judge denied bail. A municipal court judge cannot set bail on a murder charge.
Clark opted not to appear at the hearing, officials said.
Bennett died Sunday morning or afternoon, police believe. A neighbor returning a borrowed lawn mower found Bennett’s body in his bedroom at 1 p.m. and alerted authorities.
Arrest warrants accuse Swagner, McFadden and Clark of binding Bennett with duct tape and placing a plastic bag over his head.
An autopsy Monday didn’t reveal how Bennett died, and toxicology tests are pending. Those screenings usually take two to three weeks to complete, officials said.
Cochran said Swagner, McFadden and Clark lived in weekly rental motels. Authorities following tips in Bennett’s death arrested Clark first, Cochran said, when North Charleston police found him in front of a Rivers Avenue pawn shop Monday.
Next, North Charleston police picked up McFadden, after spotting him on surveillance footage from a Murphy USA gas station, Cochran said. The video showed McFadden abandoning Bennett’s 2009 Toyota Tacoma in the Goose Creek Walmart parking lot, according to police.
Charleston County Metro Narcotics officers then arrested Swagner, according to Cochran, and Hanahan detectives interviewed her Thursday.
“I’m absolutely positive we have who did it,” Cochran said. The chief said all three suspects knew Bennett.
Police said the trio took guns from Bennett’s home, and that Clark and McFadden stole duct tape from Walmart before Bennett’s death. Bennett had fallen victim to another theft just weeks earlier.
Authorities arrested a North Charleston man July 10 on charges of forging 13 checks in Bennett’s name totaling nearly $10,000. The man worked with a woman who was not charged and who was “supposedly blackmailing” Bennett over an incident from her childhood, according to a police report.
Bennett “had supposedly taken advantage of her (in a way) that was criminal in nature,” the report said. Cochran said Clark, one of the murder suspects, was friends with an associate of that woman.
Bennett was charged in 2009 with second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. Authorities accused him of downloading and distributing child pornography, and he recently learned that prosecutors planned to take him to trial.
Of the trio accused in Bennett’s death, state records show that only Swagner had a clean rap sheet.
Clark racked up 39 arrests in his 39 years, according to state records. A tattoo that says “5150” scrolls across his neck — street slang for an extremely dangerous person. The term is loosely based on the California penal code number for people with dangerous mental disorders subject to involuntary confinement.
His criminal history includes convictions for grand larceny, second-degree burglary, forgery, possession of drug paraphernalia, shoplifting, driving under suspension, giving false information, an open-container violation and third-degree assault and battery, according to state records.
McFadden’s 15 arrests include convictions for accessory to a felon, embezzlement, marijuana possession, trespassing, receiving stolen goods, larceny and obtaining property under false pretense, state records show.
Cochran credited collaboration among local law enforcement agencies and state officials, as well as quality surveillance footage, for making the arrests.
“Good video is the difference between solving a case and looking at a bunch of grainy pixels,” he said.
All three suspects remain at the Berkeley County jail.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allysonjbird.
Charged: Brittany Lyn Swagner, Robert Andrew McFadden (top) and Robert Randolph Clark (left).×
Robert Andrew McFadden, 24, (DOB 08/17/1987) was charged by Hanahan Police with murder in the July 15, 2012 death of Roy Ray Bennett of 2 Lombardi Lane.×
Robert Randolph Clark, 39, (DOB 08/19/1972) was charged by Hanahan Police with murder in the July 15, 2012 death of Roy Ray Bennett of 2 Lombardi Lane.×
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