The man accused of killing William Alex Apps after arranging to buy his pickup off Craigslist drove to Beaufort in the stolen truck to party with friends after dumping the body, using the victim’s debit card to finance his road trip, authorities said.
While many people conduct uneventful transactions through classified ads on a daily basis, there are some basic tips to consider to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim.
Do not list your home address, and use a proxy email address, such as offered by Craigslist.
Do not conduct any transaction or meeting alone; bring someone along.
Meet in a public place where there are people around.
Trust your instincts; if the deal causes concerns, there may be a reason.
Consider using alternate payment sources, such as Paypal, to avoid cash transactions.
Do not get into a vehicle with anyone to conduct business.
Make a note of where and with whom you are meeting and leave that information with a friend or relative.
Source: Charleston County Sheriff’s Office
Jquan Marqel Scott, 19, of James Island bought food from Taco Bell and Wendy’s, some sneakers and gas while Apps’ worried family tried in vain to reach the 25-year-old Charleston man, who disappeared Thursday, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said.
Scott was still driving Apps’ stolen truck when investigators caught up with him Sunday, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said. Scott offered a host of explanations before finally confessing that he had shot Apps in the head and left him for dead in a stand of woods in Mount Pleasant, Cannon said.
Scott led investigators from the two counties to Apps’ body Monday, just hours after the local sheriff’s office issued a missing person alert, Cannon said.
Scott, of Greenhill Road, is charged with murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and possession of a weapon during a violent crime in connection with Apps’ death. His bail was set at $150,000 on the robbery and weapons charges Tuesday night, with no bail set on the murder and kidnapping charges.
A second suspect, 20-year-old Isaac R. Williams of Rutledge Avenue in Charleston, is also charged with kidnapping and murder and is being held in the Charleston County jail awaiting a circuit judge to set bail.
Apps, a College of Charleston student who grew up in Beaufort, agreed to meet the two men at a Hardee’s restaurant on Spring Street about 4 p.m. Thursday to sell them a 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck he had advertised on the online classifieds site, Cannon said.
Apps’ mother showed up as well with the title to the truck, but he sent her home after the deal didn’t go through, opting to give the men a test drive by himself, Cannon said. While they were crossing the Ravenel Bridge into Mount Pleasant, Scott allegedly shot Apps in the head while Apps was sitting in the passenger seat. They dumped his body in woods near a power substation off Magrath Darby Boulevard, Cannon said.
It is unclear whether the robbery was planned ahead of time or was a spur-of-the-moment proposition, Cannon said. “It’s hard to figure out what their thought processes were in that regard,” he said.
After the killing, Scott drove to Apps’ hometown of Beaufort to party with friends in Bluffton who attend a nearby University of South Carolina campus, Cannon said.
Tanner said he received a call from a friend of Apps’ family who was worried because no one could reach Apps and he had not shown up for appointments on Friday.
His last Facebook post was at 4:56 p.m. on the day he disappeared. The post, made from a mobile phone, indicated that he was near Charleston. It read: “Time to go ride in the country.”
Tanner said investigators tracked Apps’ debit card and saw it had been used to purchase gas in Yemassee, to buy food and sneakers, and to shop at a Beaufort-area Walmart.
“It wasn’t like someone was trying to use the card to drain his account,” he said. “The charges appeared reasonable, buying things that whoever owned the card might buy for themselves.”
Still, investigators kept digging, and phone records and other clues eventually led them to Scott, Tanner said. Detectives contacted him and he agreed to meet them Sunday in Jacksonboro. He showed up driving Apps’ truck with a girlfriend in tow, he said.
Scott told detectives he had purchased the truck from Apps on Thursday but Apps didn’t have a bill of sale, Tanner said. So, Scott explained, Apps gave him a debit card to hold as collateral until they could sign the paperwork and formalize the purchase, he said.
Scott offered to let them check out the truck.
“He was very cooperative,” Tanner said. “The arrangement seemed unusual, but it could have happened that way.”
Deputies allowed him to leave, and Scott also agreed to meet with Charleston County investigators later in the day on James Island, where he told them a similar story, authorities said.
But as investigators continued to dig and interview people, their doubts about Scott and his explanation grew, Tanner said. When Apps still hadn’t shown up by Monday morning, they knew it was time to move in on the suspect, he said.
“It was obvious by Monday morning that things were not adding up,” he said.
Detectives zeroed in on Scott and, on Monday, he changed his story and implicated himself in the crime, Cannon said.
Investigators searched the pickup truck and found blood and other evidence inside, Cannon said. They have not located the gun used to kill Apps, he said.
In addition to the Charleston County charges, Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton county investigators plan to charge Scott in connection with the stolen debit card use, Tanner said.
Neither Scott nor Williams has a prior criminal record in South Carolina, according to State Law Enforcement Division records. Scott had enrolled to attend Charleston Southern University in January, attorney Jim Brown of Beaufort said at his bail hearing, as Scott sniffled and wiped his eyes.
But John Strubel, a spokesman for Charleston Southern University, said Scott had not been accepted to attend school there and was never a prospective student.
According to his Facebook page, Scott is a graduate of James Island Christian School. Several members of his church were at his bail hearing to show their support. He played football for the school and for Crown College, a Christian school in Minnesota, according to his page and recruiting sites.
Scott indicated on Facebook last month that he was sitting out college football this year but was back in town and trying out for a semi-pro football team.
State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, is a close friend of the Apps family. She said Apps was a graduate of Beaufort Academy and planned to study law in Charleston. She described him as a talented athlete with a passion for soccer and hunting.
“He’s just the best young man you would ever want to meet,” she said. “He grew up with a mom and dad who were very connected to the community and to the environment. He has been hunting, fishing and playing sports since he was old enough to toddle around.
“He was also a great conversationalist and very helpful,” she said. “He was just everyone’s friend.”
Apps had worked in Charleston at Carolina Polo and Carriage Co., which offers horse-drawn carriage tours downtown. Company owner Richard Rhett Knoth said Apps’ co-workers were “deeply saddened and shocked by” his death.
“Alex was a kind soul who passed his love of the Lowcountry on to thousands of visitors and locals alike,” he said in a written statement. “Alex was a faithful ambassador of our dear city and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Dave Munday contributed to this story. Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.