Tuesday’s announcement of arrests in two separate Columbia homicides has answered painful, nagging questions for the victims’ families: Who killed their loved ones?
Charles Barham, 30, and Floyd Owen, 33, have been charged in the September 2015 shooting death of Charles A. Kusko Jr., according to Columbia police Chief Skip Holbrook. Each is charged with murder, first-degree burglary, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and conspiracy.
Bouvia Sales, 23, was charged with killing Marlon Butler this spring during a nighttime burglary at Butler’s home on Candwenn Court, just off Two Notch Road near C.A. Johnson High School.
Officers found Kusko dead in his Budon Court home the day after Labor Day after coworkers asked police to check on Kusko when he didn’t show up for work, Holbrook said. There were signs an intruder had forced his way into the home near Forest Acres.
Barham is Kusko’s nephew, and investigators say he drove Owen, the accused shooter, to Kusko’s Budon Court home Sept. 8, 2015, and also served as a lookout. The nephew provided Owen with the gun and also drove the getaway car, Holbrook said. Owen is an acquaintance of Kusko’s, and shot Kusko after a “very heated” argument, said Holbrook without elaborating.
Owen, who initially provided police an alibi for his whereabouts, turned himself in June 7 to Columbia police on an unrelated robbery in February, Holbrook said.
Owen and Barham were persons of interest in Kusko’s death early on, but police did not have enough evidence to file a charge, said Matthew McCoy, a detective in the case. Eventually, investigators developed a DNA profile that led to Owen, McCoy said Tuesday. They interviewed some witnesses again. “We were able to basically take his alibi and put holes in it,” McCoy said.
After being charged with murder and returned to the Richland County jail, Owen told investigators about anaccomplice, Barham, according to Holbrook. Barham was arrested Tuesday afternoon at his workplace on Two Notch Road.
In the other homicide, Butler, 43, and his 18-year-old son returned home around 1:45 a.m. April 8 and found their front door kicked in, according to detective Chauncey Duckett.
“They didn’t know anyone was still in there,” Duckett said. “They’re walking through, looking at the items that were missing.”
Sales began firing, first at Butler and then at his teenage son as the son ran from the house to call for help, Duckett said.
Holbrook said police learned during interviews that Sales confessed to at least three people about the killing. A “key piece of evidence that contained DNA” found at the scene later linked Sales to the homicide, the chief said. Sales is charged with murder, attempted murder, burglary and possession of a firearm during a violent crime.
Butler’s uncle, Bobby Rogers, said Sales’ arrest underscores the family’s frustration and yet provides some relief.
“Just think about the people he told, and they said nothing,” Rogers said. “If somebody tells you that they hurt somebody else’s family, tell. We needed closure, and nobody said anything.”
Still, the arrests provide no closure for Kusko’s family, said Kusko’s daughter, Laurin Barnes, who described the past two years as “hell.”
“Not knowing each and every day, waking up and knowing that someone took your dad’s life and they’re still out there and going on with their lives – there’s no sort of closure,” she said. “It’s more so one step closer to justice for us.”
Barnes declined to speak about the relationship of Barham to the family. As Tuesday’s news conference ended, she walked across the room to Butler’s family and hugged a relative of Butler’s.
“When they were talking about her case, I heard her cry,” Barnes said later. “And that instantly made me want to cry for her because I know the tremendous burden and pain she’s feeling. I can relate to it.”