Sister of Hollywood woman appalled after sex offender is implicated in kidnapping, death

Jerry Lee Manigault (PROVIDED)

Margaret Fie said she was appalled when she heard that the man accused of killing her 77-year-old sister was a sex offender.

"I couldn't believe it," Fie said Tuesday after a bond hearing for Jerry Lee Manigault, 53, the Hollywood man arrested in connection with the killing of Julia Ann Mudgett.

His status as a sex offender stemmed from convictions in a July 1996 kidnapping and assault. He had been freed from prison in early April after serving time on a burglary conviction.

After Charleston County deputies developed Manigault as a suspect in Mudgett's killing, his mother told investigators that he had relocated to Beaufort County, sheriff's Maj. Eric Watson said.

Manigault did not notify authorities about his move, so Charleston County Sheriff officials arrested him for failing to re-register, Watson said. He was later charged with murder.

Fie, of Key Largo, Fla., struggles to grasp losing her sister.

"This is something that happens to someone else, you know, not to you," said Fie, who thanked investigators for making an arrest in the case.

Already jailed on murder and burglary charges in the killing of Julia Ann Mudgett, Manigault was denied bail Tuesday on a new charge of strong arm robbery and given a $100,000 bail on a kidnapping count that authorities also added this week.

Manigault, who was not represented by an attorney, said little during the hearing, except to answer a magistrate's questions.

Fie, who attended the hearing, said she was very close to her only sister whom she grew up with. While the circumstances surrounding her sister's death are tragic, Fie said, she believes her sister is in a better place.

"She had a happy heart, and she is in a happy place," Fie said. "Her husband was a musician, and she loved him dearly."

A memorial for Mudgett is planned for Wednesday morning at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard in West Ashley.

Mudgett had been reported missing from her Toogoodoo Road home in Hollywood and hadn't been seen since May 3, according to the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.

By the time a friend of Mudgett's, Irene Green of Hollywood, came to check on her May 6, she had not been in contact with anyone for two days.

On the front porch of Mudgett's mobile home, Green saw that the door was ajar. A window in the door had been smashed. Shards of glass littered the porch.

Inside, Green noticed that the telephone was off the hook. The pump on Mudgett's oxygen tank was still on. Mudgett depended on the oxygen supply because of problems with her lungs.

Green, 74, called 911.

"The front door looks like it's been busted open," Green told the dispatcher, according to the call released this week under a S.C. Freedom of Information Act request. "There's blood on the wall inside the house. I don't know where she is."

Green mentioned in the call that her friend's home had been burglarized "about two years ago."

This time, Green hoped that Mudgett had gotten injured somehow and had driven herself to the hospital. Mudgett's car also was gone, and her dogs were loose.

Authorities later said that whoever broke in had ransacked the place.

"The place is a mess," Green told the dispatcher. "That's not too unusual. But there is blood on the wall."

Deputies who later responded summoned people to help search on the ground and from helicopters. The authorities tried to track Mudgett's cellphone that night, but it had been powered off.

They looked for her Hyundai Elantra, which later would be spotted in Bluffton.

Manigault was seen with the car on numerous occasions at several locations in Bluffton, and investigators received tips that he was in Bluffton, where he had family members, according to the authorities.

Detectives later found Mudgett's car more than 20 miles north. Blood was found in the trunk, and the State Law Enforcement Division was called to compare samples with Mudgett's blood.

Manigault was arrested May 12 in Bluffton, where he is a suspect in the death of 70-year-old Polly Ann Mitchell of Bluffton, whose body was found last week.

Mudgett's body was found Friday in a wooded area about a half-mile west of her home. It had been wrapped in cloth, officials said.

Sometime between 7 p.m. May 5 and 10 p.m. May 6, Mudgett was hit several times in the head and body, causing blood loss that is thought to have contributed to her death, according to an arrest affidavit. Mudgett died of blunt trauma, the authorities said.

Andrew Knapp contributed to this report. Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594.