A Greenville County man is accused of shooting a couple who stopped to give him a ride on Christmas Eve morning, authorities said Wednesday.
They had been left for dead on the side of Interstate 85 in Anderson County, authorities said, shot in the head by a young hitchhiker with a handgun and homemade silencer.
John Asher Farrell Villarreal, 22, of 121 Ledge Run Court, Greenville, was charged with murder, attempted murder, carjacking and possession of a weapon during a violent crime, according to warrants.
Warrants and authorities allege Farrell Villarreal shot and killed Mary Marie Fowler, a 43-year-old from Greenville. Warrants also allege Farrell Villarreal shot James Jerry Dobson II multiple times in the head and neck in order to take his car, a 2013 Hyundai.
Dobson’s injuries were life-threatening, and he remained at the hospital in critical condition, said Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper.
At a press conference Wednesday, Skipper said the incident started in the predawn hours of Christmas Eve, when Dobson and Fowler stopped to pick up a stranger in a raincoat. It was about 5 a.m., and the man was standing on the roadside in western Greenville County, the sheriff said.
Skipper said the hitchhiker agreed to pay the couple $25 to take him to the Georgia state line.
Dobson at one point pulled over so the man could use the bathroom, he said.
Instead of getting out, authorities said the man pulled out a gun and shot the couple in the back of the head.
Their bodies were dumped between mile markers 16 and 17, where a passerby later found them at 6:15 a.m., Skipper said.
There was no trace of the Hyundai Elantra, he said.
Investigators said they have since been able to piece together the hitchhiker’s trail.
They said he drove the car to meet a friend in Georgia, where he was pulled over by a state trooper for speeding in Johnson County.
The man later told investigators he “had contemplated shooting the trooper,” Skipper said at the press conference.
He instead came back to Greenville, storing the stolen car at an abandoned property in Travelers Rest that the man called his “safe house,” the sheriff said.
Skipper said investigators haven’t established a motive for the shooting. He said the man appears to have been a “total stranger” with no prior criminal record.
“There’s no indication that he is connected to the two victims,” Skipper said.
Tuesday, the sheriff said an Anderson County deputy spotted the Hyundai the man was driving parked on Clement Road outside Belton. Authorities said three guns — a rifle and two handguns with homemade silencers — were found in the car. Farrell Villarreal was arrested Tuesday night and booked into the Anderson County Detention Center, acording to records.
Skipper said investigators will “continue to follow the trail” and work with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and Travelers Rest police.
“We’re going to be looking at him further,” he said.