Roommate accused of desecration of human remains in dismembered man case

Nancy Bentley, 53, stands during her bond hearing on charges of obstructing justice and desecration of human remains Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 in Summerville. Paul Zoeller/Staff Buy this photo

- Nancy Bentley used a camping-style folding saw to remove her roommate's legs from his body before she stuffed the parts into black trash bags, according to a warrant by town police.

Roy Allen Steward, 54, already was dead when Bentley cut his legs off and attempted to remove his head and arms, the warrant stated. Steward had been dead at least two days, according to the warrant. But the Summerville Police Department has not said exactly how Steward died.

Police charged 53-year-old Bentley, of Summerville, Thursday with desecration of human remains.

Police made the grisly discovery Tuesday when they found the trash bags in the vehicle she'd been driving, which had been towed following a traffic stop Saturday. But no one had checked the trunk of the car, so the remains sat in the vehicle for three days.

Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet said Steward died Jan. 2, a few weeks before his brother in Texas had reported him missing. The man hadn't spoken to his brother since Christmas and was concerned about him so he called police, according to a police report.

When police checked on Steward's whereabouts Jan. 14 at the Bacons Bridge mobile home he and Bentley shared, he had already been dead for two weeks, according to his time of death. While police asked Bentley about Steward's whereabouts that day, her story was inconsistent, according to the report. She told police she hadn't seen him in days. When the officer tried taking a look inside the home, she refused, according to the report. The officer also noted smelling what seemed to him as the odor of trash coming from inside the house.

Bentley had dismembered Steward in the home between Jan. 3 and Jan. 18, according to the warrant.

The pair's relationship remains unclear. In the missing person's report, a Summerville police officer previously stated Bentley was Steward's live-in girlfriend for eight years. On Thursday, however, spokesman Capt. Jon Rogers said he could not confirm that information.

Deputies had arrested Bentley and cited her with careless driving Saturday. They'd impounded her car and it was taken to the Creek Rats towing lot on Trolley Road. On Tuesday, Summerville police found Steward's remains in the trunk of the car on the lot.

Police went to arrest Bentley Wednesday morning, but she was hospitalized until Thursday. Rogers said he did not know why she was hospitalized.

On Thursday afternoon, a magistrate declined to set any bail for Bentley, due to the nature of the charges. A circuit judge will have to consider setting bail at a later date.

Before the hearing, Bentley expressed concern to a deputy in the courtroom about her medication.

"Three hours late for my medicine," she said. "And they don't even know if they got it or if they'll give it to me." Bentley told authorities during Saturday's traffic stop that she is bipolar and taking several medications, according to an incident report.

During the bond hearing, Bentley appeared confused, answering "no" when the judge asked if she understood the proceedings.

Bentley also appeared concerned about the potential of missing a court hearing for a traffic ticket she recently received. "What if I'm not there?" she asked the judge.

She also asked how she can obtain an attorney.

Bentley also is charged with obstruction of justice. Police said she lied to them when they were investigating Steward's disappearance.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC. Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.

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