When sheriff's deputies came across Nancy Bentley parked in the middle of U.S. Highway 17A in Ridgeville Saturday, she told them she'd stopped to smoke a cigarette while on her way to a red building with chickens, according to an incident report.
Speaking slowly and unsteady on her feet, the 53-year-old Summerville woman told deputies she was bipolar and took five medications a day for her mental health issues.
After determining she wasn't drunk, they cited Bentley for careless driving and called a tow truck to haul her white Honda to the impound yard.
Had they checked her trunk, however, it would have been more than a typical traffic stop.
Several miles away in Summerville, police were hunting for Bentley's boyfriend, 54-year-old Roy Steward, who had been missing for about a month. Worried, his family in Texas had called police to report his disappearance. But no trace had turned up.
That's because Steward was dead, his body dismembered and stowed in black trash bags in the trunk of Bentley's car, authorities said.
Investigators made the grisly find Tuesday at the Creek Rats towing yard on Old Trolley Road, where Bentley's car had been sitting since Saturday's traffic stop.
Dorchester County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Sam Richardson would not say whether deputies were supposed to inventory the entire vehicle before having it towed.
"We are conducting an internal review about the stop and looking into all aspects of the investigation," he said.
Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet has not identified a cause of death yet and authorities have not said exactly when they believe Steward died.
It also remains unclear whether Steward was dismembered before or after he died.
On Wednesday afternoon, shattered glass was spread below a boarded up window of the mobile home where Steward and Bentley lived. Neighbors said the pair had been living there together for a few years.
Tammy Werner, 48 who lives nearby, described Bentley as "grumpy" and often seen yelling at Steward.
Donna Price, 42, also a neighbor, said she hadn't seen the two of them since the holidays.
Steward's brother, Edward, reported him missing on Dec. 26 after he said he hadn't spoken to him since Christmas, according to an incident report.
Police showed up at the Bacon's Bridge home Jan. 14 to check on Steward and spoke to Bentley, who was described as Steward's live-in girlfriend of eight years in a police report.
Rogers said Wednesday, however, their relationship is unknown.
Bentley told police she hadn't seen Steward in days because he had taken a bus to see his brother in Texas, the report stated.
Police later spoke to Edward Steward, who was shocked by that news, saying he had no idea his brother was going to visit him, according to the report.
With growing concern, he asked police to check the inside of the house. When police began asking Bentley more questions about Steward's whereabouts, there were several inconsistencies in her "stories," police said.
The officer asked to enter the house, but Bentley refused, saying her house was "filthy," even though the officer observed it appeared to be clean, the report stated.
The officer also smelled what seemed to him as the odor of trash coming from inside the home.
But Bentley refused to give him consent to enter the house, according to the report.
Three days later, Bentley was cited in the traffic stop and was bailed out of jail the same night, according to jail records.
On Wednesday morning, Summerville police showed up at her home looking for her.
Werner said when police arrived, Bentley was placed on a stretcher and taken away by EMS.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bentley was still in the emergency room of Summerville Medical Center, according to hospital officials.
Rogers said he did not know why she was admitted to the hospital, but that she "seemed to be in distress when they (police) arrived."
Police charged Bentley then with obstruction of justice in connection to false statements authorities said she made when they were searching for Steward.
"We're still digging through quite a bit of information," Rogers said.
In the Creekside neighborhood, some of those who lived near the pair were chilled by the gruesome nature surrounding the discovery of Steward's body.
"It's unbelievable. I can't even believe that," Werner said. "It's very shocking."
Glenn Smith and Christina Elmore contributed to this report. Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.
Nancy Bentley was arrested and cited for careless driving on Jan. 18 by the Dorchester County Sheriff■─˘s Office. Provided×
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