On a warm July day, a crowd of surfers paddled through the waves at the Folly Beach Washout with an empty board in tow.

They came to say goodbye to one of their own.

Craig Massey had been a regular at Folly — a friendly, outgoing guy who seemed to get along with everyone. Then, in a freak flash of violence, he was gone, stabbed to death in a bloody confrontation that left two others wounded at a James Island home.

The crowd watched as Massey's brother and a cousin paddled past the breakers and set his board free to drift out to sea. They said goodbye, but their questions linger: Just what happened that night? And how could things have ended so badly?

"Everyone was completely shocked by what happened," Nancy Hussey, director of the Eastern Surfing Association, said. "Craig was so friendly and well-mannered. He was a very sweet guy."

Charleston County sheriff's deputies have released few details about their investigation. But they are probing the possibility that the July 2 confrontation was somehow linked to a romantic triangle involving the 20-year-old surfer, a young woman who also was stabbed and the young man accused of wielding the knife.

Massey's friends said he had an on-again, off-again relationship with Mary Whilden Hills, 19, of Johns Island. She also had a romantic relationship of some sort with the suspect, 19-year-old Charles Richard Dobson Jr., according to his attorney. Hills could not be reached for comment last week.

Dobson maintains that he acted in self-defense after Massey and other uninvited guests invaded his Teal Marsh Road home. Dobson's representation is expected to mount a defense rooted in the "Castle Doctrine," which outlines a person's right to use deadly force to defend themselves from violent intruders to their home.

"We don't know why they came to the home," Lauren Williams, Dobson's lawyer, said. "But it looks like they came in very aggressively from the minute the door was opened."

Investigators say Dobson lashed out at his unexpected guests, stabbing Massey several times, including two wounds to the chest. Massey died a short time later at an area hospital. Dobson also is accused of stabbing 21-year-old Travis Macon Barrow multiple times and wounding Hills during the incident.

Dobson faces a murder charge and two counts of assault and battery with intent to kill.

Charleston County sheriff's Lt. Eric Watson said investigators stand by their decision to charge Dobson and are ready to proceed with the case.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said the sheriff's office took the appropriate action.

Authorities now are reviewing the evidence and interviewing witnesses to determine exactly what happened during the chaotic episode and whether the Castle Doctrine and claims of self-defense apply.

Prosecutors hope to reach a decision about the case prior to a preliminary hearing on Sept. 2 to determine probable cause, Wilson said.

Massey's friends don't buy Dobson's story. They don't think Massey was the aggressor that night or that deadly force was warranted. They described him as an easy-going guy.

"I don't believe it," Daniel Blackwell, Massey's cousin, said. "He was always smiling and chilling."

Robbie Mullen, a close friend of the victim, said Massey didn't even know Dobson. Massey apparently went to the suspect's home that night to simply retrieve something he had left in Hills' car, he said.

The week before he died, Massey was arrested by Mount Pleasant police after he and Hills got in an argument on the Long Point Road exit ramp off Interstate 526. Hills told police that Massey, whom she described as her boyfriend, threw beer on her while she was driving after she refused to let him spend the night at her grandmother's house. Massey appeared very intoxicated and repeatedly cursed at Hills, police said. He was charged with disorderly conduct and underage possession of beer. Overall, however, he had a fairly clean record.

Dobson's criminal record contains minor drug and alcohol violations and convictions. He comes from a well-to-do family with roots in Virginia. His father founded C. Richard Dobson Builders, which was one of Charleston's top-five volume builders prior to its purchase by Texas-based D.R. Horton for $22.9 million in 1998. His mother, who is divorced from the builder, bought the Teal Marsh Drive home last year for $500,000 and owns another home on Folly Beach valued at $1.4 million, according to county records.

The mother, Anne Dobson, posted $12,500 to bail her son out of jail on July 16, and the family received permission to send Charles Dobson to Virginia to live with his sister while awaiting trial. He is barred from contacting the victims or their families and must wear an electronic monitoring device when he is in South Carolina, the court order states.

Some of Massey's friends wonder how a murder suspect could be allowed to leave the state and whether Dobson was given special treatment. But Dobson's attorney said the move was to guarantee her client's safety.

Vandals egged the family's James Island home after the stabbing and slashed the tires of a Ford Explorer parked at the property.

Neighbors said that the Dobsons moved out of the home weeks ago.

"There have been safety issues at the home since the incident," Williams said. "I don't want my client to be in a situation where he is in danger. He is badly scarred by this, as well."