PHOTO, The Clinton Chronicle, Sept. 17, 2014: Accessory after the fact of murder defendant William Alexander tells Presiding Judge Eugene Griffith Jr. he will not testify in his own behalf Friday in Laurens County criminal court. Alexander is with his defense attorneys, 8th Circuit Public Defenders Kate Kendall, center, and Chelsea McNeill, as the defense tells Griffith it will present no evidence or testimony in Alexander’s trial. “They are prosecuting a mentally ill person who has a problem with substances,” McNeill tells the jury about Alexander. - Photo by Vic MacDonald
The family of a Clinton teen stranguled to death in June, 2013 has gotten word a man convicted of accessory after the fact of murder in connection with the homicide is to be released from prison.
Will Alexander, of Cross Hill, will be released March 1, a source close to the case said. Text and e-mail messages about Will Alexander’s release are going out to the family, the source said. “I guess he served 80% of his sentence,” the source said.
An unconfirmed report said Alexander had a hearing Dec. 5 about his release, but he was not released from custody. No hearing will be conducted for the March 1 release. He has been in jail since September, 2014 (out on bond for a time between arrest in July, 2013 and trial Sept., 2014) when he stood trial in Laurens County General Session Court. Alexander was arrested, charged and convicted of assisting in a cover-up of the strangulation death of 19-year-old Emily-Anna Asbill by her on-again, off-again boyfriend Michael Beaty, both of Clinton. Beaty is serving a life without the possibility of parole sentence for murder, the conviction is under appeal.
These are articles about the Alexander case guilty verdict and sentencing:
Previous: The Clinton Chronicle, Sept. 17, 2014
A Laurens County jury on Friday deliberated three hours before finding a Cross Hill man had acted to cover-up a friend’s alleged involvement in the death of a 19-year-old Clinton woman in summer, 2013.
William Alexander was convicted of accessory after the fact of murder. To prove its case, the prosecution led by 8th Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo had to show a felony had been committed. To that end, the state showed the jury Asbill’s autopsy photos and had a forensic pathology explain the ligature mark around the dead woman’s neck.
Forensic and DNA evidence indicated Asbill died of being strangled by a USB cord. Her DNA and the DNA of Michael Beaty were on the cord, DNA analysis showed. Asbill’s body also had the DNA of a person that was not Alexander or Beaty, although the point of origin for that DNA was not explained during Alexander’s trial.
“He prevented law enforcement from solving this case. That is what you have heard this week,” Alexander’s attorney, Public Defender Chelsea McNeill said to the jury in closing argument. “You didn’t hear Will destroyed evidence, he wiped down the car and USB cord. (You didn’t hear that he said) Michael Beaty, go change your clothes, there’s blood on them, let’s burn those clothes.”
The defense said Alexander was impaired the night (June 29, 2013) Asbill died. He drank 26 beers, ingested cocaine, smoked marijuana and did a Molly, a pure form of the drug Ecstacy. Asbill’s blood-alcohol level in her autopsy was .23, “and she was only at the party two hours, Will was there all day,” McNeill said.
Alexander, Beaty and Asbill along with many other people attended a wake for a man Alexander and Beaty had known from Thornwell school. Considerable drinking and drug use had gone on at the party location near Joanna that night, testimony indicated.
Alexander takes shots of the anti-psychotic drug Haldol, McNeill said, although Stumbo objected to that reference, saying it was never admitted into evidence by Alexander’s defense. McNeill said it was referenced in a jail phone call the prosecution admitted into evidence against Alexander.
“In his own words, you heard him say ‘I’ll do my best, to help you (Beaty) get away with what I saw,’” Stumbo told the jury. In one of his seven statements to law enforcement, Alexander said he had a conversation with Beaty after Asbill had died. Beaty told him to say he did not know anything, and Alexander, according to the statement said, “Law enforcement has their ways of finding out.”
Testimony was presented to the jury that the first time an officer talked to Alexander, the defendant said cuts and scraped off skin on Asbill’s right arm happened because “she’s a cutter,” meaning she cut herself on purpose.
Beaty said that, too, to the first EMT who worked on Asbill’s unresponsive body. Forensic pathologist Dr. Janet Ross testified the injuries were not self-inflicted cuts – the injuries were road rash.
In one of his statements, Alexander said Beaty dragged Asbill before she died 20-30 feet along the pavement of a country road while they were fighting. Yet, in another statement, Alexander said Asbill was “a biter” – that she would jump on Beaty who had to fight her off – and that everybody knew “Michael was EA’s bitch.”
Alexander’s characterization of Asbill and the fact that he had to give seven statements during interrogations involving seven different officers before “a little bit of truth finally came out,” Stumbo said, made Alexander an accessory.
The prosecution also played for the jury seven phone calls Alexander made from jail before he was released on bond. “He’s going to be as real and authentic as possible in a conversation with his mother,” Stumbo said. “(In the calls) Everything’s about somebody else doing some to Will Alexander. His lawyer said it in her opening, he is self-centered. I agree. Isn’t that the basis of most crimes?”
Showing a larger-than-life-size photo of Asbill, known as EA to family and friends, to the jury, Stumbo said, “Emily-Anna Asbill, that’s her. After all the legal wrangling, 18-19 witnesses, statement after statement, it’s real easy to lose sight of the fact of why we’re here – that beautiful lady on the screen, so out-going, so warm, 19, she’s not here anymore.
“Because Will Alexander was part of the whole scenario that took Emily-Anna Asbill off this earth. He didn’t do it, he’s not charged with that. … Today, we have the chance to hold into account the other guy in this case.”
Stumbo led the jury in his closing through each of the seven statements Alexander gave to law enforcement between 1:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. on June 30, 2013. “Twenty-two hours (after Asbill was found unresponsive just after 11 p.m. June 29, 2013), we’re finally getting some truth,” Stumbo said.
“Even if all you have are his own statements, you also have the jail calls,” Stumbo said. “(Alexander says) ‘I committed a crime.’ ‘I did it to myself.’ ‘I witnessed it.’ ‘I know I’m guilty of trying to cover up a murder.’”
After he was found guilty, Alexander was taken into custody. Presiding Judge Eugene Griffith Jr. denied a defense motion to allow Alexander to surrender himself after getting his affairs in order. Alexander had been out of custody on bond for several months, and during the trial was allowed to move freely around, and in and out of the courtroom. His family got him to court each day.
Alexander’s sentence was held in abeyance. Stumbo said Asbill’s family – her father Ashley Asbill, a SLED agent, and her mother Emily Joy, wearing purple, the color of criminal domestic violence awareness, were in the courtroom each day – were ready to give Victim Impact Statements to Griffin.
However, Stumbo said, the state also at the judge’s discretion could wait on sentencing for Alexander. He could be sentenced following Beaty’s murder trial. The maximum sentence for Alexander’s accessory conviction is 15 years in prison.
“We have Beaty on the trial list for October (Oct. 6), November (Nov. 3) and December terms of court in Laurens County,” Stumbo said after Alexander’s trial. “We believe the jury reached the right decision. We will continue to fight hard for this (victim’s) family.”
Previous: The Clinton Chronicle, Oct. 15, 2014
A Cross Hill man convicted of aiding a cover up in the homicide of a Clinton teen in 2013 will spend three years in prison, a circuit court judge announced Friday.
Will Alexander was convicted last month of accessory after the fact of murder in what his lawyer said is “a media-driven case.”
Alexander was found guilty of helping Michael Beaty, accused of murder, cover up what happened to Emily-Anna Asbill the night she was found in her car at a Clinton residence, strangled to death.
Beaty allegedly strangled Asbill, his sometimes-girlfriend, with a USB cord, forensic evidence at Alexander’s trial showed.
Alexander gave seven statements to authorities related to what Beaty and Asbill did the night of June 29, 2013, which later led to Asbill being declared dead at the local hospital early the next morning.
In asking the judge for probation for Alexander, his attorney Public Defender Chelsea McNeill said it was Asbill who attended an “out of control” party that night, Asbill who had semen in her according to her autopsy with DNA that did not match Beaty or Alexander, and Asbill whose blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit.
“I baptized Will long ago,” retired First Presbyterian Church, Clinton, pastor Dr. Joe Brooks said in a statement on Alexander’s behalf. “Will has had difficulty with an illness. I don’t know what the right thing is in this case.”
Brooks said the late circuit judge Jim Johnson, whose portrait hangs in the courtroom where Alexander was tried, convicted and sentenced, and the late Bill Alexander, District 56 educator and Will Alexander’s father, “played football together.”
“Jim Johnson would do the right thing (probation), you will, too,” Brooks said to Judge Griffith.
Griffith’s sentence of Alexander was seven years suspended to three years in prison, credit for 104 days already served (before getting bond and later while awaiting sentencing), and court-mandated drug and mental illness treatment and counseling.
Alexander is to be subject to random drug tests while he is in prison and on probation.
Alexander did not make a statement to the court, and he did not testify at his trial.
“It has been very difficult for us, too,” his mother, Jane Alexander, told the court, after EA Asbill’s mother, Emily Joy, addressed the court in a victim’s impact statement.
“Will and I have had a whole year together (awaiting trial),” Jane Alexander said. “Will suffers from a severe mental illness.”
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo said that illness does not explain or mitigate Alexander’s actions. “This (victim’s) family’s been jerked around,” Stumbo said. “To this day there is a lack of cooperation.”
“It is shocking,” Stumbo said, “not because Will Alexander took (Asbill’s) life, but there is a pattern of deception and selfishness that is atrocious.”
“No parent should have to bury their child,” Joy said. “(Alexander) could have stopped it. We ask for the maximum sentence to begin closure and justice for EA.”
“She always wanted the best for everyone else,” Amanda Asbill, the victim’s older sister by three and a half year said in a letter read to the court (Amanda Asbill was in class at the College of Charleston during the sentencing on Friday). “We stuck by each other. One of my best memories was in Florida, she visited me and we swam with the dolphins, something I had promised her for years. ...
“She was ruthlessly, cruelly and brutally taken from us.”
Stumbo told the court last Tuesday he attended the silent witness ceremony at the Statehouse in Columbia, at the invitation of SC Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Emily Joy was there, Stumbo said, and a silhouette on display represented EA Asbill, as one of the 47 victims of death at the hands of a significant other in South Carolina in 2013.
“Will Alexander is not responsible for the death of Emily- Anna Asbill,” McNeill said. “Will Alexander wanted to help the prosecution, he really, truly did. ... He is completely freaked out he cannot recall (the night of June 29, 2013). It has caused him anxiety, panic and severe remorse. Despite the jury’s verdict, I truly believe in no way he tried to cover up what happened. (Alexander) is a mentally ill drug addict, and that is a toxic, toxic combination. He doesn’t know what he saw that night.
“No purpose would be served,” McNeill said, “by having this young man in prison.”
After the sentencing, Alexander was led away to begin serving the three-year sentence.