Woman gets 14 years in connection with Laurens man's death
WITH 2013 ARTICLE: A crime that haunted local law enforcement officers for 12 years has its first conviction.
Brenda Roberts, of Laurens, was convicted Thursday as an accessory and sentenced to 14 years in prison in connection with the brutal beating death of Jim Bolt at the Laurens VFW in 2003. Two arrests were made in July 2015 - AJ Bowers is awaiting trial on a murder charge.
Authorities alleged Roberts washed bloody clothes and disposed of clothes to hamper the investigation. Roberts' defense was she didn't know a homicide had been committed, and her attorney said she should be tried based on what she knew then - not what authories know now about Bolt's death. Circuit Judge Frank Addy imposed the 14-year sentence after Roberts was found guilty by a Laurens County jury, she will be credited for time served - July, 2015 - Aug. 3, 2016.
Roberts, then 64, of 479 Rocky Springs Church Rd., Laurens, was arrested July 8, 2015. She was charged with accessory after the fact of murder in connection with Bolt's Sept. 26, 2003 homicide. Authorities alleged she knew a felony had been committed. Bowers, then 29, of Lomax Court, Murrells Inlet, was arrested July 10, 2015 - authorities allege he committed armed robbery, then beat Bolt to death.
Law enforcement held annual vigils and news conferences on the anniversaries of Bolt's death, appealing to the public for any information that could lead to an arrest. CrimeStoppers rewards were offered - flyers bearing Bolt's photo and information about when and where he was killed were circulated widely. A sign beside the VFW on East Main Street in Laurens often bore his name, with appeals for prayers and information.
PREVIOUS, SEPT., 2013:
Ten years later, murder investigation
‘is not a cold case,’ Laurens chief says
By Vic MacDonald
The police chief in Laurens says the death of Jim Bolt, through 10 years old, is still an active case.
The solicitor says to the person(s) who killed Bolt, “You can’t hide forever.”
And Bolt’s daughter, Libby Burroughs said Thursday to law enforcement, VFW members and others throughout Laurens County, “Thank you for making this personal.”
Jim Bolt was found dead Sept. 26, 2003, at the VFW Hut Laurens where he was an employee. No one has been arrested.
Thursday was the case’s 10th anniversary, and Crime Stoppers Laurens County used the date to draw public awareness back to the unsolved homicide.
“I can’t imagine how difficult this has been for the families,” Crime Stoppers Chairman John Young said at the event, held in front of the VFW Hut, on a busy stretch of US 76/East Main Street in Laurens.
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo said it’s premature to talking about seeking the death penalty for the person(s) who killed Bolt, a Korean War veteran, or to discuss plea-bargaining to gain information and testimony.
However, Stumbo vowed, the case will never “grow cold”.
Volunteers on Thursday handed out 3,000 flyers showing Bolt’s photo, information about the homicide, and Crime Stoppers’ reward up to $5,500.
“If you (Bolt’s killers) are listening to this,” Stumbo said, “we’re coming after you. We will catch you. An investigator from my office is working closely with (Laurens Police Chief Sonny) Ledda’s office.
“Right now, we are interested in catching this person. That’s our first mission. Prosecution will be a team effort.”
Burroughs spoke on the Bolt family’s behalf, with sister Tess Isaacson beside her for support. “It has been a very active 10 years,” Burroughs said. “The case is still very active. Every time there are new leads (and) new evidence it is pursued. Thank you for keeping dad’s memory alive.”
Burroughs expressed the family’s appreciation to volunteers - many of them Veterans of Foreign Wars members and motorcyclists - who handed out flyers.
“Jim was a super nice man,” said Bill Palmer, who met Bolt when Palmer was looking for a meeting place for the local ABATE motorcycle rights group. “I am dedicated to this. I won’t be around much longer, this is on my bucket list - to see our solicitor prosecute these people.
“These people are animals. They have no feelings for anybody. They did it once, they’ll do it again.
“We need one tip” to crack the case, Palmer said.
Stumbo said investigators need an eyewitness - someone who saw something suspicious about 5 p.m. Sept. 26, 2003 around the VFW Hut. It could be someone who was driving past - 5 p.m. is a busy time on the roadway in front of the hut in Laurens - or someone who heard someone else say something about the crime, he said.
“Any bit of information,” Stumbo said, “our investigators will follow up on it. These tips can be anonymous, if they want to be.”
New technology can assist in the investigation, Stumbo said, “but we have to have a piece of physical evidence for us to analyze, and that often comes from tips.”
Young said the Crime Stoppers fund, the VFW Medlock-Simpson unit and many others have raised money to offer a reward. He said Crime Stoppers is willing to pay up to $5,500 for information that leads to an arrest in the Bolt case.
“We are asking the community to pass on information,” Young said, “and give this family some closure.”
“Just two days ago a viable lead came to our detectives division,” Chief Ledda said. “We will pursue it. The police department and the greater Laurens community we share (the Bolt family’s) grief.”
And just because the homicide is a decade old, it is not cold. Ledda vowed, “We will continue to work this case.”