Yemassee man convicted in double slaying
RIDGELAND, SC (April 12, 2017) – Solicitor Duffie Stone called the 2015 double slaying of a married couple at a Best Western motel a “cold-blooded execution” and has asked the judge to sentence Joshua Poacher to life in prison.
Poacher, 22, was found guilty Wednesday of two counts of murder and one count each of armed robbery and possession of a weapon during the commission of violent crime in the Aug. 16, 2015, deaths of 72-year-old Kantibhai Patel and his 67-year-old wife, Hansaben Patel.
“It was a cold-blooded execution,” Stone said. “Mrs. Patel was bending over her dead husband when Poacher shot her in the back.”
Circuit Court Judge R. Lawton McIntosh is scheduled to sentence Poacher at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
The Patels lived and worked at the Point South motel as housekeepers. Poacher entered their room that morning, shot and killed the couple, and stole several items, including foreign currency and a debit card that he attempted to use 15 times before Poacher was arrested later that day.
Prosecutors called 17 witnesses before resting their case Tuesday. Among those who testified were the defendant's half-sister, a convenience store clerk who told the jury that Poacher used a debit card at her store shortly after the murders. The store's surveillance cameras recorded Poacher’s use of an in-store ATM. He wore clothes similar to those described by eye witnesses who saw a man scurrying out of the Patels’ room earlier that morning.
Jennifer Turno, a fraud investigator for Regions Bank, testified that the ATM machine rejected an attempt to withdraw money using the Patels’ card because the user entered an incorrect PIN number. The attempt occurred at about the time Poacher was in the store.
Experts from the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division testified that Poacher's fingerprints were found on items in the Patels' room. SLED investigators also found a 40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun underneath a bed at another motel where Poacher was living. That gun was used to fire the shots that killed the Patels.
The jury also saw a videotape of Poacher’s interview with SLED investigator Richard Johnson, which took place three days after the murders. In two earlier interviews, Poacher told investigators that the gun and items taken from the Patels’ room were given to him by an acquaintance.
However, in the third interview, Poacher admitted he was in the Patels’ room that morning. He said he was on his way to eat breakfast at a Denny’s restaurant that adjoins the Best Western when he saw Mr. Patel on the balcony outside his room. Poacher said he asked to borrow a cigarette lighter and that Mr. Patel invited him into his room. A scuffle ensued after Mr. Patel saw a gun Poacher was carrying and became agitated, Poacher said in the interview.
Poacher claimed he shot Mr. Patel because he was scared, then shot his wife, too, when she charged at him.
However, Dr. Nicholas Batalis, the Medical University of South Carolina forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies on the Patels, cast doubt on Poacher's story. He told the jury that the couple was likely shot from a distance of more than 4 feet, not in a close-range scuffle, and likely died where they fell, near the back of the room, not near the front door, as Poacher told the SLED investigator.
Batalis also testified that Mrs. Patel, who was found lying on top of her husband, was shot three times on the side of her shoulder, likely from rounds fired in quick succession. A fourth shot in her back pierced her lungs and aorta and proved fatal, the pathologist testified.
Jasper County Career Criminal Prosecutor Mary Jones assisted Stone in the case.