Fourteen years into a 30-year prison sentence, murder suspect Wesley Max Myers has been transported back to the Charleston County jail while state prosecutors decide whether to retry him for the 1997 strangling death of his then-girlfriend.
Myers, 55, admitted early on to beating and killing Teresa Haught, a 36-year-old single mother, at the Mill Inn, a North Charleston bar that she managed, then setting the establishment on fire. He later recanted those statements, alleging questionable police tactics had caused him to falsely confess to the killing.
“I did not kill Teresa Haught,” Myers maintained during his 2001 trial. “I loved her to death. I love her now.”
A circuit judge in 2012 granted Myers a second chance to try his case, agreeing that Myers’ constitutional rights had been violated during earlier proceedings.
Myers was not present during critical moments of his trial, the judge cited at the time in his ruling. Newly discovered DNA evidence also revealed that a hair found in Haught’s hand was not Myers’, as a State Law Enforcement Division examiner had originally testified at trial.
Attempts to appeal the judge’s ruling were ultimately unsuccessful.
The state Supreme Court declined earlier this month to review the lower level court’s order, prompting Myers’ transfer back to the jail, 9th Circuit Chief Deputy Solicitor Bruce DuRant said.
Prosecutors are now working to decide whether to pursue the case again on murder and third-degree arson charges. The decision is made difficult, DuRant said, as they must locate and prepare witnesses from the decades-old slaying.
“(It is) often difficult to locate witnesses a year after a crime. We are dealing with almost 19 years,” DuRant said in an email.
Prosecutors do not have a deadline in deciding whether or not to move forward with the case, he said.
The amount of time that Myers has already served is not a factor in the decision, according to DuRant.
“Whether or not I can still successfully try the case due to the passage of time is really the only consideration,” he said.
Martha Runey, an attorney for Myers, on Thursday filed a motion in Charleston County requesting access to “all documents, tangible objects, reports of examinations and tests, witness statements, physical evidence and any other information” that the Solicitor’s Office has on the case.
Runey declined to comment further on the case.
Myers will remain in jail pending a decision from prosecutors, unless a defense attorney requests and a judge grants bail.
Haught’s body was found March 13, 1997. She had been beaten with a wine carafe and strangled, fracturing her neck, North Charleston police reported at the time. The bar where she worked was then set on fire. She died before inhaling any smoke, authorities said.
Investigators found no sign of forced entry and the bar’s money was accounted for, police reported.
Myers confessed to police and the media three days after the killing and apologized to Haught’s mother, before maintaining innocence.
He was booked July 14 at the Charleston County jail, where he remained late last week.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.