A Hanahan municipal court judge on Friday denied bail for three people arrested on murder charges in connection with a 71-year-old man’s death.
Brittany Lynn Swagner, 24; Robert Andrew McFadden, 24; and Robert Randolph Clark, 39, are accused ofbinding Roy Bennett with duct tape and placing a plastic bag over his head, according to arrest warrants.
Clark chose not to appear at the hearing Friday, but Berkeley County jail officials brought Swager and McFadden to court.
A municipal judge cannot set bail on a murder charge.
Police believe Bennett was killed Sunday, between 6:30 a.m., when he picked up his newspaper from his Lombardi Lane home, and 1 p.m., when a neighbor found him dead in his bedroom.
The three accused in Bennett’s slaying were living in area motels and didn’t have permanent residences, Hanahan police Lt. Michael Fowlersaid. Additional charges may follow, Fowler said, as police continue their investigation.
Goose Creek police also will charge McFadden with possession of a stolen motor vehicle, Fowler said.
McFadden was spotted in surveillance footage abandoning Bennett’s 2009 Toyota Tacoma in the Goose Creek Walmart parking lot and walking toward a nearby Murphy USA gas station, Fowler said.
The State Law Enforcement Division scoured the truck for clues Wednesday and found fingerprints, and investigators examined surveillance video from Walmart and the gas station.
McFadden ditched the pickup in the far reaches of the Walmart camera’s range, Fowler said, but police analyzed the gas station’s footage Thursday and were able to capture “a really good view” of him.
A North Charleston police officer recognized McFadden in that image and knew where he hung out, Fowler said. He was arrested and helped lead police to Swagner, then to Clark.
“Everything really got rolling after we found that truck,” Fowler said.
From interviews, police also learned that the three took guns from Bennett’s home, and Fowler said Clark and McFadden stole duct tape from Walmart before Bennett’s death.
The neighbor found Bennett’s body with duct tape around his arms and legs and a bag over his head after he returned a lawn mower he had borrowed.
Fowler said late Thursday that police are confident that they have found the three people who were at Bennett’s home in the Otranto neighborhood Sunday. They haven’t ruled out the possibility of other related arrests.
“The real work has just begun,” Fowler said. “It’s entirely conceivable that once they realize they’re charged with murder that they might be forthcoming with even more information.”
Early in their search, investigators said they hadn’t found signs of forced entry in Bennett’s home, leading them to think he knew his killers.
Fowler said police think Clark and Bennett knew each other “in some form or fashion.”
All three knew that Bennett had money, and police say that was the trio’s motive.
Bennett’s money had been exploited previously, authorities said.
On July 10, a North Charleston man was charged with forging 13 checks totaling nearly $10,000 in his name. He worked with a woman who was not charged. She was “supposedly blackmailing” Bennett over an incident from her childhood, according to a police report.
Bennett “had supposedly taken advantage of her (in a way) that was criminal in nature,” the report said.
Whether those cases are related is not clear. “We haven’t made any connection as of yet to North Charleston’s arrest last week,” Fowler said.
Bennett was charged in 2009 with second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He was accused of downloading and distributing child pornography and had been recently told that prosecutors were pursuing a trial.
An autopsy Monday didn’t indicate how Bennett died, and toxicology tests are still pending. Those usually take two to three weeks to complete, said Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury.