CHARLESTON - An audible shudder went through the tiny bond hearing courtroom Thursday as two accused killers walked into view on a large TV screen. Spectators began sobbing, wailing and consoling each other.
More than a dozen relatives and friends of the victim, 28-year-old Jamar Gathers, attended the hearings for Cephus Mitchell and Vashty West. Gathers' sisters, aunts and cousins were there to speak for him, but they would not get to see the suspects face-to-face.
Bond hearings in Charleston County are held via a closed-circuit television system; the defendants are in the county jail, across the street from the courthouse.
Gathers was found about 4 p.m. Saturday lying in a pool of blood in a breezeway at Bridgeview Village apartments on North Romney Street.
Mitchell, 18, of Charleston, and West, 17, of Ladson, each are charged with murder. Magistrate Priscilla Baldwin explained that she could not set bail on a murder charge. Only a circuit judge can do so.
Mitchell's hearing was over quickly, but West had additional charges for which a magistrate can set bail, so Baldwin gave the victim's family an opportunity to speak.
"When they killed my son, they killed a part of me," said Ruth Gathers, the victim's mother. She said she could not bear the pain of losing her child.
According to the arrest warrants, West is the suspected shooter. A witness saw a female holding a gun and the victim falling to the ground with a gunshot wound, according to the warrants. West also was charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base.
Baldwin set bail at $100,000 on the weapons charge and $50,000 each on the drug charges, bringing West's total bail amount to $200,000.
According to the arrest warrants, the drug charges stem from a search of an apartment at 105R N. Romney St. the day after the shooting. Police found a plastic bag containing 1.66 grams of cocaine and another bag with 5.98 grams of cocaine base in West's bedroom, the warrants state. During the hearing, it came out that West had been staying with her sister at the Bridgeview Village apartment.
West's sister, Lakeista Ferguson, of 105R N. Romney St., also was arrested and faces the same drug charges as West. According to the warrants, Ferguson is the leaseholder on the apartment where the drugs were found. Baldwin set her bail at $5,000 on each charge, for a total of $10,000.
When the hearings ended, Gathers' 14 supporters filed out quickly. They did not speak with reporters.
Reach David W. MacDougall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5655.