Former DNR reservist indicted on hit-and-run charge in James Island crash

A former reserve wildlife officer has been indicted on a felony hit-and-run charge in a crash that killed a James Island bicyclist in August.

Jeffery Lewis Thomas, 46, of Mount Pleasant again will face a count of leaving the scene of an accident with death, according to the grand jury indictment.

Thomas was arrested after the Aug. 17 wreck that killed 40-year-old Matthew Denton, but the charge was dropped during a preliminary hearing three weeks later. His attorney argued that Thomas had fulfilled his legal obligation by stopping, performing CPR and asking someone else to call 911.

When a passerby stopped to help, Thomas left, but he returned to the scene on Riverland Drive about 40 minutes later.

After his arrest, Thomas was fired from his post as a reservist for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Documents indicated that Thomas had told authorities that he had been drinking earlier in the evening. But the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the crash, said that Thomas wasn’t impaired and that deputies had no cause to test his blood.

Family members of Denton said several missteps by sheriff’s investigators and by prosecutors led to the charge being dismissed.

Dan Denton, the victim’s father, said in a statement this afternoon: “The Denton family wants to thank Solicitor Scarlett Wilson and Assistant Solicitor Michael Nelson for obtaining this indictment and taking this case seriously after the initial mishandling by law enforcement officials” and a prosecutor.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or

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