The state of South Carolina’s murder case against thirty-year-old Bradley Walker – a bizarre story this news outlet is only just beginning to dive into – was scheduled for trial this week in Lexington County, with the office of S.C. eleventh circuit solicitor Rick Hubbard managing the prosecution.
The trial isn’t happening, though … at least not this week.
One of the prosecutors reportedly had a death in the family, prompting S.C. circuit court judge Walton J. McLeod IV to push this oft-delayed case back to January 9, 2023. At a hearing on Monday afternoon memorializing this continuance, Walker’s lawyer – Lexington, S.C. attorney Debra Moore – addressed the court in what was expected to be a purely procedural context.
Her remarks turned out to be anything but …
(Click to view)
(Via: Will Folks/ FITSNews)
Moore (above) turned this trial upside down before it even started when she alleged the star witness in the prosecution’s case against Walker was found to have been in possession of images depicting the sexual assault of a female child.
Walker stands accused of murdering 38-year-old Aaron Peterson on July 23, 2018 at a mobile home in Pelion, S.C. Three others were wounded in the attack. He is facing one count of murder, three counts of attempted murder and one count of using a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the incident.
According to my sources, the genesis of this shooting was an alleged attempt by Peterson’s wife – Elizabeth “Lyz” Peterson – to engage the couple in the practice of polyamory, a.k.a. when two people in a purportedly monogamous relationship decide to pursue consensual romantic and/ or sexual liaisons with additional partners (together or separately).
Walker was one of the couple’s polyamorous prospects, source familiar with the case told me.
According to Moore, the star witness for the prosecution – 28-year-old David P. “Bear” Hawkins III – had images depicting the sexual assault of a child on his phone, one of several devices collected from the crime scene four-and-a-half years ago.
Hawkins was one of the three individuals wounded in this shooting. He was also one of several men involved in this narrative who was romantically linked to Lyz Peterson, according to sources familiar with the case.
“I’ve seen the pornography,” Moore said, referring to the dozens of images reportedly obtained via forensic extraction from Hawkins’ phone.
In fact, Moore said the graphic images reportedly obtained in the phone extraction depicted the sexual assault of a minor child under the age of ten years old.
“Somebody needs to investigate this,” she said. “This is a child being sexually assaulted.”
Prosectors in Hubbard’s office brusquely rebuked Moore, telling the judge the allegations against Hawkins had already been investigated – and that no charges were going to be filed against him due to insufficient evidence.
“It’s been reported, it’s been investigated,” assistant eleventh circuit solicitor Robby McNair curtly told the judge. “It was referred to the (attorney general) for investigation. No charges are being brought because they cannot date the images (and) they can’t say whether he downloaded them.”
McNair was so indignant during the court hearing on Monday he stood up from the table and began to depart the courtroom prior to McLeod gaveling the proceedings to a close – a major breach of court etiquette and show of disrespect for the judge.
So … is McNair’s assertion regarding the purported investigation into these images accurate?
It is not immediately clear …
The presence of the child pornography on Hawkins’ phone was first reported to authorities in November 2021 by former Lexington County deputy Brian Setree, who was assigned by the court to investigate the murder.
“I believe it is in the best interest of the public to report this information,” Setree wrote in a November 8, 2021 email to his former employer, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department (LCSD).
(Click to view)
(Via: Will Folks/ FITSNews)
Setree followed up on January 26, 2022, asking one of the department’s leaders to provide him with “some insight on the appropriate way to ask/ find out if the state is … doing an investigation on Hawkins.”
“I’ve been watching the index and to date no charges have been filed,” Setree wrote.
According to a new investigative report prepared in connection with this case, a court-ordered forensic analysis of Hawkins’ phone conducted on December 9, 2022 indeed revealed “explicit child pornography pictures located on the device.”
These pictures were “stored on an SD card located inside the device,” the report found.
How bad are the images? This news outlet is not going to go into detail about what they depicted, only to say based on our conversations with sources – Moore’s characterization in court was accurate.
Upon identifying the images, “the examination of the cellular device was terminated” and the phone was “stored and tagged to turn over to the FBI.”
It is not immediately clear whether the FBI has been provided with any information related to the case. Meanwhile, the office of attorney general Alan Wilson could not immediately confirm having received a referral from the eleventh circuit regarding Hawkins. A spokesman for Wilson said he would review the office’s records and respond upon the completion of that review.
As for Walker, he has been incarcerated since October 2018 – when he was booked at the Lexington County detention center following a lengthy hospital stay. Walker sustained severe burns during a car conflagration which took place approximately 45 minutes after the Pelion shooting. The cause of that car fire is not immediately clear, either, although Walker reportedly showed up on the doorstep of a nearby residence naked with burns all over his body saying “they’re coming to get me.”
Count on this news outlet to keep our readers in the loop on the latest developments regarding this unfolding story. Hopefully prosecutors are doing everything they can to pursue justice against whomever perpetrated the assault depicted in the photos retrieved from Hawkins’ phone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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