It’s been five years since a disbarred South Carolina attorney with military honors was charged with shooting seven officers and killing two outside of his upscale home in the Vintage Place community in Florence, S.C.
Despite a handwritten admission from the defendant, S.C. twelfth circuit solicitor Ed Clements says a suppression or “gag” order will remain in effect until the judge decides otherwise.
According to incident reports and arrest records obtained by FITSNews, Frederick T. Hopkins Jr., 79, ambushed officers with an M14 rifle as they were executing a search warrant on his son, 32-year-old Seth David Hopkins.
Investigators believed Seth was collecting intimate souvenirs from a 12-year-old foster child after she accused the man of a yearslong sexual assault three days prior to the mass shooting. Rather than allow investigators inside his home, the elder Hopkins opened fire on them from the second-floor window of his 6,500 square foot residence at 932 Ashton Drive.
The disabled veteran with awards for his U.S. Army service during the Vietnam War maintained the standoff for approximately two hours, firing at least 39 rounds from inside the broken home where two minors and two adults were present.
Florence police sergeant Terrence Carraway, 52, died on the scene while Florence County investigator Farrah Turner, 37, succumbed to her injures nearly three weeks later. Three officers and two additional deputies were sent to the hospital and later returned to their respective departments.
In 2019, Seth Hopkins plead guilty to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 437 days of credit for time served.
As for the sins of his father? He is staring down two murder charges, five attempted murder charges and multiple weapons charges. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty on the murder raps.
Clements confirmed with FITSNews that the gag order was authorized by the presiding judge “early on” — according to his best approximation — and that the case was sealed from the media and public sometime this summer.
“Everybody thought it was a good idea … we have a responsibility to protect the rights of the accused, as well prosecute them, without being affected by outside influences when the trial happens,” said Clements during the second annual ‘Heroes Day’ luncheon at the Florence County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO).
The luncheon – consisting of a buffet of homemade fried chicken, pulled pork and banana pudding – is a newfound tradition made possible by investigator Turner’s surviving friends and extended family. Heroes Day organizers said attendance has grown exponentially since last year.
While the annual lunch seeks to recognize first responders from across Florence County, some attendants say it’s difficult to overlook five years of mourning without so much as a trial date.
“As the mom of a fallen officer, [the gag order] limits me to what I can say and what I’d like to say. Sometimes, I get angry. I get upset. And I have a few choice words that I want to share. But I can’t. I just have to keep it to myself,” said Katie Godwin, Turner’s mother.
Godwin told FITSNews her daughter laid unconscious in a hospital bed for nineteen days, underwent an amputation of both legs and ultimately passed away on October 22, 2018. The gag order was authorized shortly thereafter.
“I’ll never be normal again because a part of me, a big part of me, died with Farrah … I wonder. Five years later. Would she have been married by now? Would I have a grandchild? I cannot shake it. I miss my daughter so much,” Godwin said.
Clements could not confirm or deny Hopkins’ trial date, but said his office is actively considering the month of February. Earlier this year, WBTV reported the trial date was set Feb. 20.
“I share the family’s frustration,” Clements said. “There are some issues I cannot discuss, as they’re part of the gag order, that would explain why this is happening. The fact that this is a death penalty case makes it lot harder to prepare and present.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Andrew Fancher is a Lone Star Emmy award-winning journalist from Dallas, Texas. Cut from a bloodline of outlaws and lawmen alike, he was the first of his family to graduate college which was accomplished with honors. Got a story idea or news tip for Andy? Email him directly and connect with him socially across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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