A body was found near the home of a missing Hollywood woman Friday, and a convicted sex offender who was a suspect in her death was charged with murder.
Investigators believed the body was that of Julia Ann Mudgett, 77, who was reported missing from her house on Toogoodoo Road on May 6. A body wrapped in cloth was found in the woods off the road about a half mile west of her house about 5:15 p.m. Friday, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said.
The Charleston County Coroner's Office did not immediately provide more information on the body.
Investigators on scene were pretty sure the body was that of Mudgett, and a convicted sex offender who was a suspect in the case was charged with first-degree burglary and murder.
Jerry Lee Manigault, 53, had been arrested Monday on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender. He was a suspect in the deaths of both Mudgett and 70-year-old Polly Ann Mitchell of Bluffton, whose body was found Monday.
Manigault lived about a quarter-mile from Mudgett's mobile home. Several witnesses said they spotted him driving her maroon Hyundai Elantra in Bluffton a few days after Mudgett was reported missing, according to the sheriff's office. Her car was found abandoned a few days later at a Jasper County boat landing.
Detectives have focused on forensic evidence, including DNA, found at Mudgett's house and other clues from the car. The front door of her home was open, a window was broken, and blood was found there, according to the sheriff's office.
Now they are also analyzing evidence found near the body Friday.
A murder warrant for Manigault was drawn up Friday before the body was found, Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas said. Two deputies and an agent with the State Law Enforcement Division found her body a few hours later. Investigators declined to say how they knew where to look.
More details on the case are expected at Manigault's bond hearing at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon addresses the media at the scene of a body found on Toogoodoo Road on Friday.×
Julia Mudgett disappeared last week.×
Jerry Lee Manigault×
Evidence markers can be seen near where a body was found off Toogoodoo Road.×
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon updates reporters on a body found on a trail near the house a missing Hollywood woman Friday.×
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