Deputies explore possible case link
Masked robbers with a silver revolver. Victims left duct-taped. Ransacked rooms and stolen electronics.
Charleston County sheriff's deputies have noticed striking similarities between a James Island home invasion last week and a hold-up Saturday in West Ashley that landed a Citadel quarterback and three others in jail, sheriff's Maj. John Clark said.
Deputies are investigating to see if the two crimes are linked, Clark said.
Charleston police Saturday charged quarterback Miguel Starks, 19; former Citadel football player Reggie Rice, 22; and two College of Charleston students in the robbery of an assistant Citadel football coach who was tied up at gunpoint in his Ashley Crossing Drive apartment.
The coach, Joshua Harpe, told police three intruders with black bandanas, gloves and a silver revolver wrapped him in duct-tape and tore apart his bedroom, stealing a flat-screen television, video game consoles, a Citadel ring, his bank card and other items, police said.
The crime immediately caught the attention of sheriff's deputies probing a break-in that happened Feb. 24 on Woodland Shores, Clark said. In that incident, two "fit" men with ski masks, gloves and a silver revolver surprised 21-year-old Herbert Joseph Butler III and a woman while he was cooking steaks in the back yard, a police report states.
Butler's female visitor told deputies she answered a knock on the door at 10 p.m. and found a woman standing outside. The stranger asked to use the phone, explaining that her car had broken down. When Butler's friend turned around, the woman and two masked men forced their way inside and shoved her to the ground, a police report states.
The intruders bound Butler and the woman with duct tape and demanded to know where the money was, a police report states. They smacked him in the face and ripped through his home, stealing a flat-screen television, a DVD player and several DVDs. One of the men also forced the female victim to perform a sex act at gunpoint, a police report states.
The victims didn't call deputies until the next morning. The woman told deputies she was scared because the robbers had threatened her and she worried they still were watching her movements. Butler, who told deputies he thought he heard a third robber during the break-in as well, said he didn't call for help earlier because he didn't have a phone and desperately needed to sleep, a police report states.
The involvement of a female accomplice in the robbery also matched the West Ashley break-in, authorities said. In that incident, Harpe told police he was lured out of his apartment by a friend's ex-girlfriend who called seeking help because her car had broken down. The three robbers confronted him when he went to the garage to get in his car, police said.
Charged with Starks and Rice in that case are College of Charleston students Stephen Francois, 20, and Sasha Gaskins, 18. The three men are being held without bail at the county jail and face charges of first-degree burglary, armed robbery and kidnapping. Gaskins received a $50,000 bail on a charge of accessory after the fact.
Rice was a standout running back and linebacker at Greenbrier High School in Evans, Ga. While at Greenbrier, Rice pleaded guilty to felony statutory rape following a September 2005 incident involving three teenage girls. He was sentenced in juvenile court to 24 months of probation and 56 hours of community service, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
At his bond hearing Sunday, Starks gave the address of an off-campus apartment when asked where he lives. The military school's rules permit cadets to own or rent off-campus apartments, a Citadel spokesman said Monday. Overnight leaves are authorized only on Friday and/or Saturday nights, however, except in the case of special circumstances, such as a death in the family.
Two former football players interviewed by The Post and Courier said it is not uncommon for players to have off-campus apartments for use on weekends and holidays and during the summer.
"Cadets may be off-campus for general leave, overnights and weekends, based on their academic classification if they are proficient academically and physically, and if they have not been restricted to campus," according to Jeff Perez, The Citadel's vice president for external affairs. "They can also earn additional time for special activities, achievements and awards. Extracurricular activities may also take them off-campus."