Public safety briefs for November 9th-15th

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Bluffton woman reports sex assault

At approximately midnight on Nov. 4, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to Bluestone Apartments at 4921 Bluffton Parkway in Bluffton to a report of a disturbance. When deputies arrived they found a woman in an apartment screaming for help. 

She told them she was walking her dog when she was approached by an African-American man who began punching her in the face. He pushed her to the ground and began to rip off her clothes, while stating his intention to sexually assault her. 

At that point, the woman’s dog became aggressive toward the man and he ran off in an unknown direction. The woman was emotionally distraught and sustained physical injuries during the assault.

She was transported by Emergency Medical Services to a local hospital for treatment. The woman has since been released from the hospital. 

The man was possibly in his 30s with a crooked nose (maybe from a prior broken nose), missing an upper front tooth and smelled of alcohol and cigarettes. 

Other identifying physical features, such as height, approximate weight and whether he had any facial hair are not known at this time. He was wearing a black or dark hooded sweatshirt and latex medical/food services style gloves (color unknown).

Of particular significance, the suspect was described by the victim as having a speech impediment— possibly a lisp—as she noticed he had problems pronouncing words that contained the letter “s.”

Sheriff’s Office investigators are currently obtaining details and are asking for information from the public. Anyone that may have seen something in the area of Bluestone Apartments or the suspect is urged to call Sheriff’s Office Emergency Dispatch at 911 or Sgt. Seth Reynells at 843-255-3709; or CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC (274-6372) to remain anonymous and collect a possible reward.

Pedestrian, dog struck in Trask Parkway accident

Just before 7 p.m. on Nov. 2, the Burton Fire District was dispatched to a motor vehicle accident on Trask Parkway by Detour Road. Burton firefighters arrived on scene to find a female pedestrian and a dog lying on Trask Parkway after being struck by a motor vehicle. 

The pedestrian suffered what appeared to be serious injuries and was transported to the hospital. The dog was also transported to a local emergency veterinarian service with unknown injuries. 

Two lanes of Trask Parkway were blocked for approximately 45 minutes while emergency crews assisted the injured pedestrian and dog. The driver of the motor vehicle was uninjured. 

Parris Island Gateway crash injures two

Just past 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, the Burton Fire District responded to a motor vehicle accident in the area of 368 Parris Island Gateway. Firefighters arrived on the scene to a two-vehicle accident involving a pickup truck and a moped. 

The moped operator, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered what appeared to be critical injuries and was transported to the hospital. 

The driver of the pickup truck had minor injuries and was not transported. 

Three lanes of Parris Island Gateway were blocked for approximately 30 minutes while emergency crews assisted the injured drivers. 

Cold case is still being investigated

Margit Schuller, 34, was found shot to death in the laundry room shortly after 8 p.m. on Nov. 1, 1987, at Palmetto Apartments on Harding Street in Beaufort.   

The investigators developed several suspects, but forensic science of the time could not establish any firm link. Robbery and sexual assault were two of the possible motives, but neither took place.

Blood evidence was found and collected along the same route believed taken by the suspect to flee the laundry room.  

It was apparent during the struggle with Schuller that the suspect’s handgun discharged, traveling through her upper body and wounding the shooter on ricochet.  

At the time, blood typing was the industry standard and could only exclude or include a suspect in a criminal case, it would not serve as standalone as conclusive involvement of a crime.

Months later, a handgun was recovered by workers clearing a lot on U.S. 21, over a few miles from the scene. The handgun was identified as the one used to shoot and kill Schuller through forensic examination. The owner of the handgun was never identified, as it was a foreign brand and may have been brought to the United States unrecorded. 

In 1999, the blood evidence from the scene was resubmitted to the forensic laboratory for DNA analysis. A profile was developed by the laboratory and submitted to the FBI DNA database, which to this day has yet to return a match.

A reward of up to $2,500 is offered for information leading to an arrest in any Beaufort County cold case.

During some criminal investigations, investigators might exhaust all credible leads in a case. When this happens, the case can become stagnant or what is typically known as “cold.”

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is making these files accessible to the public in hopes that someone might come forward with information that may not have yet been uncovered.

Anyone with any information can contact Capt. Bob Bromage at 843-255-3402, 843-816-8013 or robertb@bcgov.net; or CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC (274-6372) to remain anonymous and collect a possible reward.

CERT training is being offered

Beaufort County residents interested in learning more about self-sufficiency during a disaster are invited to participate in the Community Response Team Program. 

The CERT program provides training for individuals to increase self-sufficiency in a disaster. 

Participants will learn to provide emergency assistance to their families and neighbors. 

CERT classes are free of charge. 

The next series will start Tuesday, Dec. 5. Classes will be held at the Technical College of the Lowcountry campus in Bluffton at 100 Community College Drive in room 125.

The course is taught in four class sessions from 6-9 p.m. and one Saturday class from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The classes include:

• Tuesday, Dec. 5: Personal Preparedness and Hazard Mitigation

• Thursday, Dec. 7: Disaster Medical I

• Tuesday, Dec. 12: Disaster Psychology/Terrorism Response

• Thursday, Dec. 14: Disaster Medical II/CERT Organization

• Saturday, Dec. 16: Fire Suppression/Disaster Search Techniques & Exercise

For more information or to register, send an email to cert@bcgov.net or contact Major David Zeoli, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, at 843-812-8035 or Kris Legge at 843-263-2783.