Slaying of baker

Should suspects in baker's death have been out on bond?

jmonk@thestate.comJuly 9, 2013 

Kelly Hunnewell

— Prior arrest records on two of the three suspects now charged with murder in last week’s shooting death of bagel baker Kelly Hunnewell raise questions about whether the two should have been out of jail on bond.

At the time Hunnewell was gunned down on July 1, both men – Lorenzo Young and Troy Stevenson – had been sprung from jail by local bonding companies and circuit judges who approved their release. Both suspects had criminal records involving arrests for serious crimes and were awaiting trial on those charges.

It hadn’t taken much time in their young lives to compile those records. Both are 18.

Young had a total of $240,000 in bonds for various charges, including first-degree burglary, according to records. He was also facing charges on offenses such as possession of a weapon during a violent crime, kidnapping, assault and armed robbery, before he was set free in January on a lower bond, according to records.

Stevenson got out of jail in late 2011 on a $35,000 bond on a first-degree burglary charge, according to records. Stevenson also was facing assault and battery charges in connection with an incident in which he allegedly attacked an emergency services worker, records said.

A third person, a 16-year-old juvenile whom police have not identified, also was charged in the Hunnewell shooting death. His criminal record, if any, could not be ascertained by The State.

Hunnewell, a 33-year-old mother of four school-age children, was shot to death in the early morning hours of July 1 at the bakery where she prepared bagels. She was the only employee working in the small building at 13 Tommy Circle, off Beltline Boulevard near Covenant Road. The building contained an off-site bakery for Carolina Cafe, a popular bagel shop on Pendleton Street, near USC’s Horseshoe and the State House.

When three would-be robbers entered her kitchen around 3 a.m., Hunnewell, who was alone, resisted. She was shot multiple times, police later said. The robbers, who police said had found the bar next door closed, attacked Hunnewell instead. They found no money and fled. Young, Stevenson and the juvenile were arrested a week later after police got a tip.

It’s possible that Young might have been in jail July 1 if he had been allowed to post bond last January.

On Jan. 22, Circuit Court Judge Alison Lee set a surety bond of $175,000 on Young for charges of first degree burglary, possession of a weapon during violent crime, criminal conspiracy, three counts of armed robbery, kidnapping and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

That day, said Edith White, a bondsman for ABC Bonding Co of Columbia, her company guaranteed bond for Young at that time because he was local and was deemed a good risk to make his future court appearances.

“We guarantee that he will appear in court” later, White said, adding that the judge, too, had to sign off on the arrangement. “We don’t guarantee behavior. We can’t control what he does on the streets.”

White, whose company is well-known in the Columbia criminal defense community, said she was sorry for what happened to Hunnewell. “I hate to see somebody lose their life, but we can’t babysit them when they get released.”

Most people her company gets out of jail are good risks and make court appearances without being arrested for a serious crime, she said.

After Young’s arrest for Hunnewell’s death, White’s company filed legal papers in the Richland County clerk of court’s office asking to be relieved of the responsibility for the bond.

Judges typically do not answer questions about why they release suspects on bond.

However, 5th Circuit solicitor Dan Johnson said Tuesday evening, a judge must typically find that a defendant is not a flight risk and doesn’t pose a danger to the community. And, Johnson said, a bond is not supposed to be so excessively large that it is punitive.

Johnson said one of his prosecutors, Nicole Simpson, opposed setting Young free on Jan. 22. The reason was that Young was already out on bond when he had been arrested for new crimes, Johnson said.

“We didn’t think he should be out,” Johnson said.

From July 2012 to October 2012, Young was arrested and re-arrested and had bond set and reset several times for various separate incidents involving things like burglary, kidnapping, armed robbery and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

On Oct. 24, on a motion by the solicitor’s office, Circuit Judge James Barber stopped Young’s cycle of arrests and release on bonds by revoking all his bonds.

However, Young was soon free to walk Columbia’s streets.

In January, over a prosecutor’s objections, Young’s lawyer stood before Judge Alison Lee and asked that Young’s bond be revisited and Young be let out. Lee consolidated his bonds on all offenses, which then totaled $240,000, and then reduced them to $175,000, Johnson said.

If a defendant free on bond is charged with murder, as in the case of Young and Stevenson, Johnson said, a bonding company typically is not called upon to forfeit all or part of the bond.

Prosecutors move for estreitment, as the forfeiture is called, usually only if a defendant fails to show up for a scheduled court appearance, Johnson said.

However, after The State newspaper raised the issue of estreitment in the Hunnewell case, Johnson said in a later phone conversation with a reporter he had researched the law and thinks his office may well have grounds to move in court for ABC to forfeit at least some of Young’s bond because of Hunnewell’s shooting death.

Stevenson’s bond of $35,000 for first-degree burglary, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and petit larceny was set on Nov. 10, 2011, by Circuit Court Judge D’Andrea Benjamin.

It isn’t clear from records whether a prosecutor opposed that bond. Unlike Young, Stevenson wasn’t already out on bond when he was arrested on those charges. Johnson said Tuesday evening it would have been his policy for one of his prosecutors to “ask for as high a bond as possible, based on the facts and circumstances of that case.”

Thomas Brunson, of A-1 Bonding Co., which put up Stevenson’s bond, echoed White’s assertion: “We only guarantee their appearance in court. We are not the judge and jury, and they are innocent until proven guilty.”

Like ABC Bonding, A-1 Bonding has filed a formal court motion to be relieved of the bond responsibility, now that Stevenson is back in jail.

White said if a judge somehow sets a new bond for the latest charges against Young, she will know what her bonding company should do.

“I wouldn’t guarantee bond any more for him,” she said.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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