As a toddler, Wayne Alwyn Hollinshead Jr. was full of energy and curiosity, and he grew into a lad with an engaging smile and the gift of gab.

He was nurtured in good homes, tutored by an uncle who was a schoolteacher, sang in church and, recalls his mother, "used to carry the pastor's briefcase."

So how did someone with so much potential end up with a 20-year prison sentence?

Hollinshead, 27, pleaded guilty Nov. 9 to trafficking cocaine and trafficking crack cocaine. Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson accepted the plea and sentenced the North Charleston resident, who must serve 85 percent of the 20 years before being eligible for release.

In announcing the conviction, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson distributed a news release that called Hollinshead a drug kingpin.

His mother, Virginia Lewis, objects to her youngest son being labeled a "kingpin," and she and her family say the sentence is excessive. A kingpin heads an organized cartel, is a financier for an illegal operation, and/or "supervises other people and is giving out directives or plans," Lewis said.

"Kingpins own islands, airplanes and boats, and when you take them out there is a terrible bloodbath," Lewis said. "You can't be a kingpin without a kingdom."

Wilson said she feels bad for Hollinshead's family, which includes his two daughters, but insists the kingpin tag fits. On a Lowcountry scale, Wilson said, Hollinshead was a major supplier of cocaine to local dealers. He frequently was arrested with large amounts of cash and with guns close by, the solicitor said.

She said the weapons often were in his girlfriend's name, but as a convicted felon Hollinshead was not supposed to have access to firearms.

Hollinshead's arrest record began in 2002 and involves Mount Pleasant, Summerville and North Charleston police; the Charleston and Dorchester county sheriff's offices; and the State Law Enforcement Division. Wilson said that Hollinshead's drug business was growing, that he frequently traveled to Atlanta and brought back large amounts of cocaine, and that he was brought into court in November on 12 drug- related warrants.

"He wasn't standing on the corner dealing $20 rocks," she said.

'A big drug dealer'

Assistant prosecutor E. Culver Kidd said Hollinshead brought to the Charleston area uncut cocaine "bricks," which, when cut with other substances, produced hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine. He said Hollinshead often carried lots of cash and apparently kept money stashed away to post his bail.

"He was a big drug dealer and we got him a hefty sentence and we stand by it," Kidd said.

Kidd said that while prosecuting Hollinshead he was introduced by defense attorney Leon Stavrinakis to Lewis, her husband Benjamin Lewis, and other Hollinshead relatives. The sad aspect of the case, Kidd said, is that many drug defendants emerge from broken homes and environments where opportunity is lacking.

But Hollinshead, Kidd said, came from a close and loving family.

"He had opportunities in life. He had family support and the structure to help him make the right choices," Kidd said.

Kidd said Hollinshead avoided some charges over the years by being cooperative with police who arrested him. But court records show Hollinshead was arrested and convicted for offenses including possession of marijuana, cocaine and crack cocaine, weapons violations and assault on police while resisting arrest.

In 2004, Hollinshead was sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act to one to six years in a "boot camp" environment, where he was told he needed to turn his life around, Kidd said.

"This is the crossroads where he needed to choose one way or the other," he said.

Hollinshead served two years at Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia, but resumed his confrontations with law enforcement after coming home.

The offense that landed Hollinshead in prison this time stems from a Dec. 1, 2008, arrest. He delivered more than a pound of cocaine to a confidential informant off Dorchester Road in North Charleston, and a search of his residence turned up another pound of cocaine, plus about 25 grams of crack and $10,000, the solicitor's office said.

But while awaiting trial on the 2008 trafficking charges, Hollinshead was charged three times with driving under suspension, and with malicious injury to personal property, resisting arrest, entry on another's lands after notice, careless operation of motor vehicle, failure to stop for blue light and siren, and trafficking less than 28 grams of cocaine. He was arrested on other drug charges that were dismissed.

In spite of what her son's rap sheet indicates, Lewis said her son never exhibited signs of drug involvement. She said she never saw him with drugs or large amounts of money.

"He never told me, 'Mom, I'm a drug dealer,' and he never came to me looking high or smelling of marijuana. He was not a user that I know about and never had elaborate parties at his home. He wasn't that kind of guy."

His stepfather, Benjamin Lewis, said Hollinshead drove a used car and "nobody ever said, 'I've seen him selling drugs.'"

'Started to spiral'

Virginia Lewis said her son never sought trouble, but as he grew older it often found him. Hollinshead lived in Summerville as a youth then started school at Goodwin Elementary in North Charleston before transferring to Angel Oak Elementary on Johns Island, where his uncle, Melvin Brown, was a teacher. Lewis said her son got in trouble at school for talking in class and other infractions and came to be considered a discipline problem.

Entering his teens, Hollinshead enrolled at Fort Dorchester High School, where he excelled in math and science, but without his uncle around "wasn't able to adjust to reality."

"It seems like that's when things started to spiral. He wasn't in a protected environment anymore, and they did not tolerate anything. He was talkative in class, and got in-school suspensions and a lot of time-outs," Lewis said.

She said a turning point came at a football game when someone was showing off a gun. The gun went off and it was passed to her son, who got arrested, she said.

"That caused him to be expelled that year," Lewis said.

Hollinshead was sent to Givhans Community School, an academy for at-risk students, where his grades generally improved, but "he got into a few scrapes and that school has zero tolerance for anything."

He earned a diploma at a school in Georgia, and after returning to the Lowcountry got a job as a parking lot cashier in downtown Charleston. His confrontations with law enforcement did not end, however, and after coming home from Kirkland found good jobs hard to come by.

"Nobody wants to hire you once you get a record," his mother said.

Craig Alexander Hollinshead, 28, laments that his brother Wayne did not benefit from his time at Kirkland.

"It's a vicious cycle," he said. "They come home and they can't make a living. What do we do while they are there to help them get back into society? What do they do there to bring them back?"

June 29, 2002, North Charleston police: Following too closely; possession of less than one gram of ice or crack.

Aug. 18, 2002, Mount Pleasant police: Unlawful carrying of weapon; possession of less than one gram ice or crack; resisting arrest; possession of 28 grams or less of marijuana or 10 grams or less of hashish; sale of a stolen pistol (charge later dropped). He was convicted of unlawful carrying of a weapon and assault on police while resisting arrest.

March 17, 2003, Charleston County Sheriff's Office: Manufacture possession Schedule I, II or III drugs; possession 28 grams or less of marijuana or 10 grams or less hashish.

Aug. 25, 2003: Charleston County Sheriff's Office: Driving under suspension; assault on a police officer while resisting arrest; possession, manufacture or distribution of ice, crank or crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in proximity of a school; possession of 28 grams or less of marijuana or 10 grams or less of hashish.

Oct. 17, 2003, North Charleston police: Trespassing; trafficking ice, crank or crack; distributing or selling cocaine, crack cocaine in proximity of a school.

Dec. 29, 2004, Charleston County Sheriff's Office: Possession of 28 grams or less of marijuana or 10 grams or less of hashish; possession of cocaine; possession of less than one gram of ice or crack cocaine; resisting arrest; assaulting a police officer while resisting arrest; distribution, sale, possession of, or manufacture of, crack cocaine in proximity of a school; unlawful carrying of a weapon.

May 7, 2007, North Charleston police: Trafficking ice, crank or crack; possession of 28 grams or less of marijuana or 10 grams or less of hashish.

Oct. 13, 2007, North Charleston police: Public disorderly conduct.

April 22, 2008, North Charleston police: Driving under suspension; failure to appear in court.

Dec. 2, 2008, S.C. Law Enforcement Division: Trafficking cocaine 400 grams or more (charge dropped in exchange for 2011 plea to trafficking cocaine and trafficking crack cocaine); trafficking ice, crank or crack; distribution, sale, possession of, or manufacture of, crack cocaine in proximity of a school; manufacturing, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute in proximity of a school; possession of a weapon during commission of a violent crime.

Dec. 15, 2008, Department of Probation and Parole and Pardon Services: parole violation.

July 23, 2009, North Charleston police: Driving under suspension.

Sept. 15, 2009, North Charleston police: Driving under suspension; manufacture or distribution of cocaine base (charge dropped); possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in proximity of a school (charge dropped); malicious injury to personal property; resisting arrest; entry on another's lands after notice.

June 16, 2010, North Charleston police: Trafficking ice, crank or cocaine (charge dropped).

Aug. 15, 2010, Dorchester County Sheriff's Office: Careless operation of motor vehicle; third-offense driving under suspension; failure to stop for blue light and siren.

Feb. 23, 2011, Dorchester County Sheriff's Office: Failure to stop for blue light and siren.

July 30, 2011, North Charleston police: Trafficking cocaine, less than 28 grams.