A thirst for an early inheritance apparently fueled a brutal slaying in which a former Dorchester County man and his wife were gunned down at their rural Pee Dee home in 2006, authorities said Friday.

A former Florence County sheriff's deputy and his wife now face federal fraud charges in connection with the deaths of his adoptive mother and stepfather.

Former Deputy Timothy James Poole, 35, was charged three years ago with murder in the killings of 64-year-old Henry Hilton and his wife, Linda Poole-Hilton, who were slain at their Lakewood Plantation home in rural Williamburg County. A county magistrate, however, later tossed out the charges for lack of evidence.

Investigators have since uncovered evidence showing Poole shot and killed the couple and then used fraud to cash in on his inheritance, authorities said. A federal grand jury indictment alleges that Poole and his wife, Jodie, 33, conspired to cover up his involvement in the crime so he would remain an eligible heir and get quick access to his mother's various trusts and estate, U.S. Attorney W. Walter Wilkins said in a release.

Authorities arrested the Florence couple Friday morning, and they remained in custody late in the day, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald said. The indictment charges the Pooles with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 17 counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

"We are so excited," said Kimberly Hilton-Reeves, daughter of Henry Hilton. "We have waited and waited and tried to be patient. But hopefully, justice will now be done."

Her brother, Michael Hilton of Ridgeville, said the indictment was a long time coming and a source of relief for the family. "I just hope they can pin it on him this time," he said.

Any murder charge in the case would have to be pursued at the state level, but federal prosecutors can use evidence of the killings to seek enhanced penalties on the fraud counts, McDonald said. "We intend to present evidence to the jury that shows Mr. Poole did, in fact, kill these individuals," he said.

Williamsburg County Sheriff Kelvin Washington and 3rd Circuit Solicitor Kelly Jackson could not be reached for comment Friday on what, if any, charges might be filed at the state level.

A caretaker found the Hiltons' bodies on a hot August day in 2006. Hilton, a retired loan officer and farmer, was found inside the house. Linda Poole- Hilton, who operated a Christian bookstore on Pawleys Island, was found in the yard. Both had been shot multiple times.

News of the slayings stunned Henry Hilton's former neighbors in the small Dorchester County town of Ridgeville. His family has deep roots in the community, and Hilton spent most of his life there before remarrying and moving to Williamsburg County, friends said.

Hilton's daughter said his family was surprised when he fell in love and opted to move so far away from home. He and his wife had been married about two years when they were killed. "He was happier than I had ever seen him," Hilton-Reeves said. "They both were."

She and her family didn't interact much with Poole-Hilton's three adopted children. But they knew that Poole's mother had "pretty much supported" him and his wife for some time, she said. Poole worked as a Florence County sheriff's deputy from 1997 to 2002, but it was unclear Friday how he had earned a living since that time.

Hilton-Reeves said her father had always believed in hard work and chafed at the idea of handouts. He and his new wife had talked of stopping the flow of cash to Poole around the time of the killings, she said.

"Nothing will ever bring my daddy back and Miss Linda back," Hilton-Reeves said. "Having to relive all of this will be tough, but hopefully all of our questions will finally be answered."

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or gsmith@postandcourier.com.