ST. GEORGE — A Hanahan man will spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury convicted him of killing a woman he met through a phone app last year.
Circuit Judge Doyet Early III handed down the sentence to Edward Bonilla on Thursday after a jury found him guilty of murder. The panel deliberated nearly two hours before delivering the verdict.
During closing statements, Bonilla’s attorney, Russell Hilton, didn’t deny his client may have killed 28-year-old Ashley Pegram. Hilton said Bonilla made “a series of choices that makes this case look real bad,” he said, but that Pegram’s death was an accident.
“He restrained her ... she was accidentally choked,” the attorney said in court. “For someone trying to cover up something, he sure gave (deputies) a lot of information.”
Hilton asked the judge to consider the possibility of an involuntary manslaughter verdict.
Don Sorenson, senior assistant 1st Circuit Solicitor, described Bonilla’s actions as “cold” and “evil-spirited.” He urged the jury to consider how Bonilla drugged, raped and beat Pegram to death before hiding her body.
She was found wrapped with electrical tape around the head and wrists, Sorenson said.
Authorities said Bonilla met Pegram through the Kik app and took her on a date on the night of April 3, 2015. Dorchester County sheriff’s deputies arrested Bonilla on April 15, 2015, on obstruction of justice charges because of inconsistencies in his story of what happened after he took Pegram out. A murder charge was added after investigators said they found blood in multiple locations, including the trunk of Bonilla’s car, that matched her DNA.
The Summerville-area woman’s body was found by cadaver dogs more than a month after she went missing. She was buried in a wooded area off Brown Town Road near Harleyville.
During Bonilla’s bond hearing in May 2015, a woman who said she dated him in the past said she broke off the relationship after he started getting too pushy and she felt uncomfortable. The woman, who did not identify herself and spoke through a relative, described Bonilla’s capability for being forceful.
Jenna-Ley Harrison of the Summerville Journal Scene contributed to this report. Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.