Walhalla Police Department
Crime & Courts

Police Chief to Reimburse $11K From Dead Woman, Disabled Adult

“You have failed …”

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A freshman police chief remains indebted to the estate of a dead woman after South Carolina’s probate court ordered him to reimburse over $11,000 for prepaid fiduciary services allegedly abandoned at the expense of an intellectually disabled inheritor.

On January 25, 2024, it was determined that Walhalla police chief Timothy “Tim” Rice failed to fulfill his court-appointed responsibilities in administering the estate of a deceased constituent. In addition to being ordered to reimburse the estate, Rice was removed as the decedent’s personal representative.

A former deputy of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), Rice joined the Walhalla Police Department (WPD) in April 2018 following the S.C. state grand jury’s triple indictment of former WPD chief Ronald Wilbanks, who subsequently resigned.

Rice thereafter served as captain of the scandal-scarred police department until being promoted to interim chief in January 2022 following the suspension — turned forced resignation — of former WPD chief Sean Brinson.

After five leaderless months, Rice was unanimously appointed permanent police chief during a hotly contested council meeting in which the lawman’s “skills and accomplishments” were revered by municipal leadership.

“I think they’re well pleased and eager to go in and promote within,” said then-Walhalla city manager Brandon Burton on June 7, 2022. “Some things I’ve seen out of the department and talking to some of the business owners, I think Walhalla is in good shape.”

Despite his promise to protect and serve, Rice was contemporarily neglecting the six-figure estate of Virginia D. Harris after petitioning — and thereafter receiving compensation — to distribute her assets to a now-deceased inheritor who suffered from Down syndrome.

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BEHIND THE BADGE

Walhalla Police Department.
Timothy “Tim” Rice recognizing child abuse prevention month on Thursday, April 15, 2021. (Walhalla Police Department)

While serving as a child/elder abuse investigator for the OCSO, then-sergeant Rice was appointed as special administrator over Harris’ estate within hours of her recorded passing at PruittHealth-Pickens on June 10, 2019. 

Appointed by now-suspended probate judge Kenneth Johns for the “purpose of making any and all funeral arrangements,” Rice’s thirty-day assignment was notarized by his wife, Oconee County associate probate judge Ashley M. Rice.

Come July 24, 2019, someone filed inventory indicating the gross value of Virginia’s estate was $278,791.97 with the only potential inheritor being Jerry Mize, the court-appointed guardian of her intellectually disabled son, James “Jamie” Harris.

Rice thereafter filed a petition to become personal representative of Virginia’s assets; a court-appointed duty in which the Palmetto State compensates anywhere from $50 to five percent of an estate’s value … for fiduciary services rendered.

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Without notifying Mize and therefore violating S.C. Code of Laws within Title 62, Rice was appointed as personal representative of Virginia’s estate within hours of someone filing inventory and appraising its value on July 24, 2019. 

In unison, judge Johns approved Rice’s petition for compensation which was thereafter notarized by his wife and promptly collected in the form of a cashier’s check totaling $11,312.77.

Come three months after receiving his advanced compensation, Rice transferred to WPD as second-in-command of an embattled department reeling from the onslaught of an investigation by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

As for how Rice “expeditiously and efficiently” distributed Virginia’s assets? On April 9, 2022, Jamie, 51, died at Prisma Health-Oconee Memorial Hospital having never received a penny of his dead mother’s estate.

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POTENTIAL MISCONDUCT

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On November 8, 2022, former Westminster Police Department (WPD) captain Danny Singleton was elected as probate judge of Oconee County and solemnly affirmed the U.S. oath of judges during his swear-in ceremony on January 3, 2023. 

It’s worth noting Singleton took the place of Rice’s wife who was serving as interim judge upon S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty’s appointment when the State Supreme Court suspended her predecessor thirteen months earlier.

Nonetheless …

Come June 2023, as Rice participated in a telecasted game of trivia with WSPA-TV morning anchor Olivia Parsons, Singleton uncovered “potential misconduct” when examining the unlawful requisition-turned-abandonment of Virginia’s estate.

While the decedent’s case was manually closed in December 2019, Singleton deduced that proper filings to complete the probate were never submitted — meaning the case remained pending without closing documents or annual conservator reports for four years.

Singleton thereafter signed an order for Rice to re-open the estate within thirty days of June 26, 2023, and furthermore signed an order of recusal for the police chief’s wife to “avoid the appearance of any impropriety.”

Within hours of Singleton’s order, Rice obtained legal representation and petitioned for an additional thirty-day extension due to the fact that his first meeting with Hubbard & Gottschall Law was not scheduled until August 7, 2023. 

While Singleton granted Rice’s initial petition, he denied the lawman’s ensuing request for a 90-day extension — stating that Virginia’s case “appears to be very straight forward” while noting his extended delay in providing funeral bills and proper accounting documents.

Come September 8, 2023, Rice filed an unsatisfactory proposal for the final distribution of her assets: $210,563.44 to the state’s Unclaimed Property Program, $2,000 to Hubbard & Gottschall Law and $35 for transfer fees.

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“YOU HAVE FAILED … ”

Walhalla Police Department
Timothy “Tim” Rice and Ashley M. Rice on or about Tuesday, December 20, 2022. (Facebook)

On January 25, 2024, Singleton held an assertive hearing in which Rice and his attorneys failed to provide adequate explanations for his five-figure compensation and subsequent abandonment of Virginia’s estate.

“This case is just concerning,” said Singleton. “Had the estate been administered properly, had the [guardian conservatorship] been administered properly; there is no doubt we would not be here today. Alright? A lot of events wouldn’t have taken place.”

Per Singleton, Rice failed to pay $367.69 in court fees incurred and invoiced by Oconee County in 2019 — and thereafter watched as Virginia’s monthly subscriptions turned a $500 account into a $60 account over the aforementioned timeframe.

Rice’s perpetual defense throughout this hearing? He “really couldn’t answer” most of Singleton’s questions as he “really didn’t understand the process” of being a personal representative and “should have moved faster on the paperwork.”

Tell that to Jamie …

“This is why courts don’t allow people to get paid upfront,” professed Singleton. “If you didn’t know the process of being a conservator or being a personal representative, why didn’t you just resign and allow somebody that knew what they were doing to do it?”

Singleton thereby removed Rice as personal representative of Virginia’s estate and ordered the lawman to reimburse his deceased constituent in the amount of $11,312.77 before once again emphasizing his “failure to properly administer the estate.”

As of publishing, Rice has not notified Oconee County Probate Court of his schedule to reimburse the estate of Virginia D. Harris in the amount of $11,312.77 by Wednesday, April 24, 2024 — the deadline imposed by Singleton.

If you know of similar cases that deserve investigative scrutiny, please reach out to this media outlet. We’re not only committed to exposing nefarious activity within government — but steadfast in holding our law enforcement as accountable as they hold the public.

Likewise, FITSNews will remain at the forefront of the effort to expose fraud and injustice in the Palmetto State’s probate court system.

This story may be updated.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Andrew Fancher (Travis Bell)

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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2 comments

Mr Bland Top fan April 1, 2024 at 12:45 pm

I think that the shit has hit the fan. Put his sorry ass under the jail and everyone else involved!

Reply
Florips Bajouco June 2, 2024 at 3:15 pm

My mother Carmelinda Bajouco was a victim of a predatory guardianship scheme and after she died we became victims of a probate court scheme by lawyers and judges to steal my mother’s estate.

My mother’s Cardinal Funeral Home worked with Mark Ross’s lawyers to stage a fraudulent court scam to remove me from being the executor of my mother’s estate. This scam cost me close to $30,000.000.

At the probate court I witnessed the Mark Ross’s lawyers hand deliver the decision to the judge before the hearing. Very important the decisions are the most important role of the judge, not the lawyers. My mother’s money ends up at Scotiabank right up the street from Mark Ross Law Office who staged the funeral scam with the funeral directors.

The lawyer who got her hands on Mom’s money has 1.2 million dollars in mortgage debt, has stolen my mother’s money.

2 lawyers reviewed my legal papers and told me the judges were involved, their names are Laurence Pattillo and Victoria Chiappiettta.

Reply

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