Connect with us

SC

Hilton Head Killer/ Rapist Released After Duffie Stone’s Office Drops Rape Charge

Another violent criminal released in South Carolina….

Published

on

For the third time in 40 years, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office let a convicted Hilton Head Island killer and rapist off easy.

Eckerin Odell Frazier — who confessed to killing 60-year-old Bertha Neaman in 1988 and raping a 65-year-old woman in 1982 — was released on Friday after spending more than two decades behind bars.

At the time of his sentencing in 2001, forensic experts were unable to identify the source of the semen collected at Neaman’s autopsy, so they couldn’t charge Frazier with rape.

However, in 2019, cold case investigators at the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office submitted the semen sample again using DNA technology that simply did not exist 20 years ago.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) concluded that the DNA from the semen matched Frazier’s DNA profile. Frazier was then charged with first-degree criminal sexual assault in the 1988 rape of Bertha Neaman.

*****

GET SOUTH CAROLINA’S LATEST NEWS IN YOUR INBOX …

*****

The 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office dismissed that charge on Friday due to “insufficient evidence” in the case. Prosecutor Hunter Swanson, who is in charge of the Special Victims Unit of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, handled Frazier’s case.

But was the evidence “insufficient”?

“The DNA conclusively linked Eckerin Frazier to Bertha Neaman’s sexual assault,” Major Bob Bromage of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office said.

To be clear, this was not a double-jeopardy charge. Frazier, who is now 57, never faced a charge for the rape of Bertha Neaman due to the lack of DNA technology at the time.

In February, when Frazier was originally scheduled to be released after serving 20 years for the murder charge, Judge Carmen Mullen set a shockingly low bond ( $1,000 cash) for Frazier.

However, Frazier lied to the court and and said that he was going to live with a relative on Spanish Wells Road, just a mile away from where he dumped 60-year-old Bertha Neaman’s body after he killed her in 1988. 

The relative found out that Frazier was ordered by the court to stay at his home only because of FITSNews’ story that informed the public on his release.

That blunder forced the court to temporarily revoke Frazier’s bond in March — just two days before he was scheduled to be released.

The latest developments in Frazier’s case have raised huge questions about Solicitor Duffie Stone’s Office and our local judicial system:

  • If DNA evidence and a confession tying Frazier to Neaman on the night she was raped and murdered isn’t enough evidence, what other cases are being dropped by the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office?
  • How could the court handle a sex offender’s release with such negligence?
  • Why wasn’t this case treated with the concern it deserves?
  • Are our prosecutors concerned about public safety at all?

The 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office has been under fire this summer for Duffie Stone’s alleged involvement in the high-profile Murdaugh Murders investigation. For months, Stone refused to recuse himself from the case despite his glaring conflicts in the case.

At the time of publication, FITSNews was not able to reach Hunter Swanson for comment.

Frazier’s Alarming Criminal History

Two separate times, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office gave Frazier a light sentence after he admitted to horrifying crimes.

Less than six years before Neaman was murdered, Frazier was arrested and convicted in the July 4, 1982, rape of a 65-year-old woman who was vacationing with her family on Hilton Head.

The crime was horrific and unforgettable for longtime Hilton Head islanders.

The woman was swimming at the Port Royal beach around 7:45 a.m. when she encountered Frazier, who was just 18 at the time.

Frazier hit her on the back of the head, pushed her into the dunes, and raped her — cracking her ribs in the process, according to media reports at the time.

The woman’s daughter caught Frazier in the act, which made him flee the scene.

Beachgoers nearby heard the screams and chased Frazier onto a nearby golf course, where he hid in the woods for hours before he was arrested by deputies, according to media reports at the time.

Frazier confessed to the the sexual assault after he was arrested.

After admitting to the violent rape of a tourist on a Hilton Head beach in 1982, he served just a fraction of his 10-year sentence. He was released a few years later.

Because he pleaded guilty, the solicitor at the time Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr. — Paul Murdaugh‘s great grandfather — gave him a deal. He ended up serving just a fraction his 10-year sentence.

Bertha Neaman‘s Murder

Just six years after the rape, Bertha Neaman’s body was found behind a church on Spanish Wells Road. Investigators determined that she, too, was raped, and they collected semen from the body.

At the time, investigators didn’t have the technology to test crime scene DNA, but they held on to the evidence.

Bertha Neaman’s murder went unsolved for more than a decade, but Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigators didn’t give up.

In 1999, soon after Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner started the cold case initiative to tackle unsolved crimes, detectives submitted forensic evidence to SLED.

*****

DON’T MISS A STORY …

SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

*****

The next year, witness interviews and other evidence led investigators to Frazier. Beaufort County law enforcement and the solicitor’s office determined they had enough evidence to charge him in Neaman’s death.

He was indicted for murder on June 12, 2000. Frazier didn’t know Neaman, but she was targeted because she was a newspaper carrier who made her deliveries at night. The murder appeared to be premeditated.

Then, again, Frazier got another sweetheart deal from prosecutors.

At trial in 2001, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and an unrelated armed robbery. Prosecutors also dropped two additional charges of kidnapping and weapons possession in the case.

Randolph Murdaugh III —  the well-known solicitor who died in June just days after his grandson and daughter-in-law were murdered — prosecuted Fazier’s case in 2001.

On top of his lengthy criminal past, Frazier’s prison record is also full of offenses. During his 20 years behind bars, Frazier was written up twice for public masturbation — most recently in 2019.

According to the South Carolina sex offender registry, Frazier will be living at 1942 Trask Parkway in Seabrook, South Carolina.

*****

WANNA SOUND OFF?

Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our stories? Or an issue you’d like to address proactively? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your own letter to the editor (or guest column) via-email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.

Editor’s note: This article is a news analysis by Mandy Matney, who has been covering this case since 2019. 

Advertisement
Comments