A woman working at a North Charleston restaurant to support family members in her native Indonesia was slain by a stranger who was desperate for a ride, according to authorities and court documents.
Luh Endang Susiani died of a gunshot wound to the back of her head early Saturday after a man stole her car outside a North Charleston laundry facility with the 31-year-old still inside. She had been employed by an Asian restaurant on Dorchester Road, within a half-mile of both the carjacking scene and the duplex where she lived.
Officials from the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office refused to say exactly where Susiani’s killing occurred, but her body was found next to an Interstate 26 entrance ramp near Summerville.
The man accused in the death, Tyler Brown-Kelly, 27, has a history of taking other people’s vehicles.
“She had come over here to work for a little while, to better herself,” said sheriff’s spokesman Dan Moon. “It’s a sad, sad situation.”
Brown-Kelly was seen later Saturday morning running from Susiani’s black Toyota Camry outside a St. George-area nightclub, according to an arrest affidavit. Brown-Kelly had been overheard saying he “had to hit a lick,” a slang phrase for committing a robbery, to get transportation to St. George, the document states.
Witnesses also reported Brown-Kelly saying he “had a body under his belt,” according to the affidavit.
In addition to the murder count in Berkeley County, Brown-Kelly was arrested on charges of kidnapping, carjacking, possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime and attempted armed robbery in North Charleston.
After a bail hearing Monday morning in Moncks Corner, the suspect’s relatives said he did not have a valid driver’s license or a car but that friends and family members gave him rides when he needed them. He had been living in the Charleston area, though his address is listed as Boyd Brown Road in St. George, they said.
“I usually just take him places where he needs to go,” said his 20-year-old sister, Tiffani Kelly of St. George. “He never goes that far, but when he needed a ride, it was always a call away.”
The father of two children, a 3- and 4-year-old, Brown-Kelly is a felon with arrests for grand larceny and unlawfully carrying firearms. He also has misdemeanor convictions for using a vehicle without permission in 2003 and 2007.
Brown-Kelly had attended North Charleston and Woodland high schools and had been employed sporadically, relatives said. His grandfather, 80-year-old McKinley Brown of St. George, said he has a troubled past, but it wasn’t a violent one.
“It doesn’t seem to me like something he’d do,” Brown said. “But I hope he understands that if he did this, he’ll have to pay the consequences.”
Brown-Kelly wept as he faced a magistrate at Hill-Finklea Detention Center, where he was jailed without bail. Tears dripped from his face before he could pluck a tissue from a box with his hands, which were bound with pink handcuffs.
“I felt like crying myself. The young man’s had a rough life,” his grandfather said. “I would assume that he’s naturally sorry that it happened.”
The chain of events that led to Brown-Kelly’s arrest started around 11:30 p.m. Friday at 5633 Dorchester Road in North Charleston.
Susiani and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Nyoman Arumika, were in their Toyota after leaving Maytag Laundry when a man holding a pistol approached them, according to an incident report. Arumika was ordered out of the car, and he complied. Susiani was told to drive, but she refused.
Instead, the gunman jumped in the car and drove off — with Susiani still inside.
Arumika ran a half-mile and got the attention of a police officer on a traffic patrol, the report states. Upset and breathless, Arumika struggled to express what happened in English, the officer reported.
By the time he relayed the story, “several minutes” had passed, the report states. The Toyota and Susiani were gone.
Three hours later, her body was found 24 miles away, on a grassy area just off an entrance ramp to westbound I-26 at Jedburg Road.
“She was shot and killed in Berkeley County,” sheriff’s Capt. Rick Ollic said. “Due to the ongoing investigation, we can’t say exactly where she was killed.”
The Jakarta Globe, an English-language newspaper in Indonesia, reported that since 2009, Susiani had been under contract with a migrant-worker agency to live and earn money in the United States. The contract was set to end in 2014.
She had worked as a waitress and cashier at the Chinese Palace on Dorchester Road, according to sheriff’s officials. But an employee at the restaurant denied those claims Monday.
Residents near her duplex on Napoleon Drive said Susiani was friendly and often would wave to neighbors, but conversation was limited. They added that Arumika also was employed as a server at an Asian restaurant near Tanger Outlets.
Five family members from Bali wept in the courtroom that Brown-Kelly appeared in. A New York-based consul from Indonesia, Zahermann Muabezi, spoke for them and asked that her body be released promptly.
Bill Salisbury, the county coroner, vowed to Susiani’s family to make that happen.
“She was trying to make money to help support her brother and sister, possibly to send them to college,” Salisbury said. “What a waste.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414.