Constable's killer gets life sentence

'The fact is that Mr. Bailey is gone, and I can't bring him back. It was an accident, a mistake, and I just want to say I'm sorry,' Walter Fayall III said.

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The family of slain state Constable Robert Bailey decided months ago that they would prefer his killer remain behind bars forever than for them to endure an emotional trial and subsequent appeals necessary for the state to put Walter Fayall III to death.

On Tuesday, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson and Circuit Judge G. Edward Welmaker went along with their wishes.

Fayall, 27, of St. Stephen pleaded guilty to killing Bailey and four related charges, and Welmaker sentenced Fayall to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He also waived his right to appeal.

Fayall, dressed in a gray-striped prison outfit with his hands in shackles, made a brief statement and apologized to the family.

"The fact is that Mr. Bailey is gone, and I can't bring him back," he said. "It was an accident, a mistake, and I just want to say I'm sorry."

Wilson summed up the dramatic facts that she was prepared to present to a jury during Fayall's death penalty trial next month.

It began with a bad spot of road that caused Fayall to swerve the night of May 14, 2007, in Lincolnville. When Bailey, 67, pulled him over for a routine traffic stop, Fayall, who had a gun on the seat and marijuana in a bag in his back seat, panicked and used his gun to shoot Bailey several times.

Those wounds weren't fatal, Wilson said, and Lincolnville resident Henry Ancrum, who lived nearby, heard Bailey tell Fayall, "Stop! You don't have to do this. You don't have to do this."

Before Fayall used a different gun to shoot Bailey in the head, killing him instantly, Bailey told Fayall that he loved him.

Fayall then enlisted friends in a futile effort to cover up the crime by driving Bailey's car to Summerville, burning it, then scattering some of his belongings along Interstate 26 before finally burying Bailey's body in a shallow circular hole in Orangeburg County, where authorities discovered it several days later.

Three members of Bailey's family fought through sobs while telling the judge what their family patriarch had meant to them and how much his senseless killing has hurt them.

His son Robert Bailey Jr. told the judge why the family wanted the deal. "We feel our family has suffered enough," he said, "and taking Walter Fayall's life will not bring our father back to life."

Rodney Bailey, a grandson, said the family forgives Fayall, and Bailey said he hopes Fayall meets his victim in the next life. "I want you to meet him. I want you to talk to him because I know he won't hold a grudge."

But son-in-law and fellow Constable Carmine Damato said he wished he would have taken his father-in-law up on his offer to ride along with him that night.

"I'm going to tell you, you're lucky," Damato said to Fayall. "I would have smoked you, as simple as that. ... Enjoy your time as you rot in prison."

Fayall's attorney, Charleston County Public Defender Ashley Pennington, said Fayall grew up in a home with domestic violence and that his father was an alcoholic. Pennington described his client as a nonviolent chronic pot smoker whose drug abuse likely made him more anxious, paranoid and unable to cope with a simple traffic stop.

Still, Pennington said none of those facts explained a crime he called "shocking and unnecessary."

"This has been one of the saddest cases I've been asked to work on," Pennington said. " 'Stupid' does not say adequately and 'unnecessary' does not say adequately the scale of this tragedy."

Welmaker said he hoped Fayall would find some purpose in life while in prison, and the judge said he was a better man because of what he heard about Bailey.

Before Tuesday's hearing began, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon approached several members of Fayall's family.

"I've been in this business long enough to know that when these things happen, you find victims everywhere you look," Cannon told them. "I wish you weren't here as much as you wish you weren't here."

As for Bailey's family, Wilson said she saw few signs that their grief has eased during the past three years -- at least not until they recently realized that she would accept a deal in which Fayall would plead guilty in exchange for spending the rest of his life behind bars.

"You could physically see the difference once they realized this day would come," Wilson said. "There was a change in them and a sense of peace."

Fayall's girlfriend, Asia Prioleau of Hopkins, was with him during the killing and also faces a murder charge. Brian Smalls of Pineville, Asia O'Neill of St. Stephen and Jerome Washington of Lake City also were charged with helping Fayall cover up the crime and flee to Charlotte.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at rbehre@postandcourier.com.