COLUMBIA — The body of a 30-year-old South Carolina woman brutally beaten by a stranger was found hours after she frantically called her grandmother to say she was being followed by a man, authorities said Tuesday.
Authorities said Beverly Hope Melton was harassed by the man when she went to a convenience store Monday, abducted from her car, sexually assaulted and beaten to death with a bat. A suspect has been charged with killing her.
Early Monday afternoon, Melton called her grandmother to say she thought she was being followed and was afraid, according to Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews.
Authorities in neighboring Chesterfield County found Melton’s vehicle in a ditch, the engine still running. The car was in reverse, and her purse was still inside, the sheriff said.
Authorities looked at surveillance video from the convenience store and saw a man they later identified as 23-year-old Nickolas Jermaine Miller harassing Melton.
From that video, authorities were also able to get a description of Miller’s vehicle and alerted other officers. A deputy stopped Miller, who agreed to speak with authorities and subsequently confessed to abducting Melton from the store, sexually assaulting her and then beating her to death in Kershaw County, Matthews said.
Miller also told authorities where to find Melton’s body. Using infrared sensors on Monday night, a state police helicopter spotted the woman in a field behind two abandoned turkey barns, Matthews said. She had been beaten to death with a baseball bat.
“This was a horribly brutal and senseless crime,” said Matthews, who said the death was a random attack and that the two did not know each other.
Miller was being held Tuesday in the Kershaw County jail on a murder charge, and state police said he had no previous criminal record in South Carolina. No bond has been set, and it wasn’t known if he had an attorney.