WALTERBORO — Tabatha Compton pleaded through tears Wednesday for someone, anyone, to come forward with information about who shot and killed her husband, Colleton County Deputy Dennis Compton, nearly a month ago.
"I would just like to say that my family and I plead with anybody who might have any information, whether it's small or large, to please come forward in the killing of my husband and the father of my children," she said, shortly before sobbing and embracing a friend.
Compton appeared at a press conference in which authorities, after exhausting more than 300 leads, announced that the reward money has grown from $10,000 to $25,000. They also said a T-shirt found about a half-mile from the crime scene may or may not be evidence.
The 39-year-old deputy was shot around 3 a.m. on Aug. 6 while responding to a burglar alarm at 699 Sunflower Drive near Smoaks. No one was home at the time, but the alarm company called the homeowner's son, who arrived about 20 minutes later and found the deputy in the front yard. He used the deputy's radio to call for help.
Scores of law enforcement officers immediately converged on the area, about 20 miles from Walterboro, searching cars and combing the woods, looking for evidence.
State Law Enforcement Division Capt. Roger Heaton said they found a T-shirt about a half-mile away from the house on Sunflower Drive.
The medium-size T-shirt says, together in black and white letters, "It's nice to Meet you. You realLY seem like an interestING person." The white letters spell out, "I'M LYING."
Heaton asked anyone who knows whose shirt it is to contact investigators. "We're absolutely not sure if it's a piece of evidence, but what we would ask is, if for some reason this was your T-shirt and you threw it out on the side of the road at some point in time, please contact the investigators and let us know so we can eliminate this and not have to deal with it."
Heaton also disclosed that a sheriff's substation located a couple of miles from the scene had been burglarized within three or four days of the shooting but that he didn't know if it was related to the case. Deputies don't visit the substation on a daily basis, and the break-in was discovered after the shooting. Heaton said he couldn't recall any of the items that were taken.
In all, investigators have collected more than 190 pieces of evidence and amassed more than 5,000 man hours in hopes of making an arrest. Heaton said they have talked to dozens of "persons of interest" but so far no one has been arrested in connection with this case. Authorities said "persons of interest" taken into custody Aug. 6 were questioned but were not labeled as suspects.
They hope an extra $15,000 in reward money will jar some memories. Two representatives from the National Police Defense Foundation in Morganville, N.J., traveled to Walterboro and pledged $10,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a suspect or suspects.
The 100,000-strong organization provides money in officer deaths because, "We will not tolerate the increased onslaught on our police," Executive Director Joseph Occhipinti said.
"We're talking about a significant amount of money," Occhipinti said. "We'll pay you cash, no questions asked. Come up with the information, help law enforcement and do the right thing."
The local law firm of Hetrick, Harvin & Bonds threw in an additional $5,000 reward and "challenged" other Walterboro and Colleton County businesses to also contribute.
"These officers serve us," said John Hetrick. "They put their lives on the line. ... We owe the families and the sheriff's department and the other law enforcement officers our support to try and bring these people responsible to justice."
Reach Andy Paras at 745-5891 or email@example.com.
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