It took a jury only four and a half hours to return the guilty verdict against John Christopher Hart for the 2013 murder of Paula Justice of Lexington County, 11th circuit solicitor Rick Hubbard said Thursday in a news release. Still maintaining his innocence, the 28-year-old Lexington County man was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
A good Samaritan checking out what he thought was a gunshot found Justice on the side of the road, shot in the head, on Lumberjack Drive at 11:39 p.m. April 10, 2013.
The 43-year-old Lexington County woman was set to testify against a co-defendant in a crack cocaine drug trafficking case, Hubbard said. She was dead within a month of pleading to a lesser charge and being released on bond.
Prosecutors said Justice’s co-defendant in the drug case, Jeremy Pugh Washington of Gaston, and Hart picked the woman from a Waffle House parking lot near SC 378 and I-20 shortly before her murder. This followed 44 telephone calls or text messages between Washington and Hart in the 3 days before the killing, prosecutors said.
After the killing, Hart fled to New York where he was arrested. Washington’s murder charge is pending, Hubbard said.