Crime & Courts

Suspect in ATM slaying arrested

UPDATE: 11:03 PM According to police reports: The Richland County Sheriff's Department Fugitive Task Force, Agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the United States Marshals Service arrested Kendrick M. Nesbitt tonight without incident. Chief Gene Sealy of the Forest Acres Police Department advises that the details of the arrest will be released Friday and requests that any questions regarding this case and arrest can be directed to them at that time.

Forest Acres police this afternoon have identified Kendrick M. Nesbitt as the man they believe robbed and killed a woman Wednesday morning at an ATM at Trenholm Plaza.

The search continues for Nesbitt, 37, who reportedly was at a home last night in the 1100 block of Bailey Street, The Colony Apartments, off Beltline Boulevard in Columbia, Forest Acres Police Chief Gene Sealy said during a press conference.

Nesbitt is charged with murder. Police earlier said they were examining evidence, though Sealy this afternoon declined to discuss specifics.

Nesbitt is charged with killing Lynne Marie Thompson, 55, of Elgin, who was shot four times about 8:40 a.m. Wednesday at a Bank of America ATM at Trenholm Plaza on Trenholm Road.

Thompson’s white 2001 Honda Odyssey van and her purse were stolen but were re-covered later.

Sealy said investigators believe the killing was random, and that Nesbitt acted alone.

Forest Acres police this morning were continuing to search for the suspected gunman.

“We’re just running down some leads, and hopefully, something will pan out today,” said Lt. Bryant Hinson.

Police say a man approached the driver’s side of Thompson’s van at 8:41 a.m. — before the bank branch opened — while she was at the ATM and shot her four times with a semi-automatic handgun, police said.

He fled in her van as she lay conscious on the ground; bank customers who heard the shots and saw the man drive away called 911, police said.

Thompson was taken in critical condition to Palmetto Health Richland, where she was pronounced dead at 10:19 a.m., authorities said.

The gunman is described as black, between 5 feet, 9 inches and 5 feet, 10 inches tall, between 30 and 40 years of age, with a scruffy beard, wearing a brown jacket, dark pants and a brown knit cap.

Anyone with information is asked to call Forest Acres Police at (803)782-9444 or Crime Stoppers at (888) CRIME-SC (274-6372).

“It’s important to be appreciative of the time you have with people,” her son, Jesse Thompson, 19, said at their home Wednesday night.

“I just talked to her yesterday on the phone,” the Presbyterian College freshman said.

“You never know when you’re going to lose someone you love.”

Police believe the shooter acted alone. Also, there is no evidence she resisted the shooter, Police Chief Gene Sealy said.

“We’re hoping the public can help us make an identification in this incident,” Sealy said.

The shooter, who set off an alarm in the 2001 white Honda Odyssey van, left it on Cox Street off Two Notch Road, police said.

He fled with the woman’s purse, which was later found in the area, police said.

Thompson didn’t get any cash out of the ATM, and it’s unclear whether the shooter made off with anything of value, police said.

Kenneth Branham, 38, heard a horn blaring from a van on Cox Street about 9 a.m., so he hurried to see if there was an accident.

A man with a pocketbook with a brown strap tucked under his jacket ran by him and headed toward West Beltline Boulevard, Branham said.

Branham found the van with the driver’s side window busted out, he said.

He had not seen the man before, but he planned to drive around apartment complexes Wednesday night and look for him.

“Wherever you’re at, I know what you look like, and I hope I find you,” Branham said.

Swarzetta Brown, 46, also saw a man run down Cox Street away from the van as its horn blared.

“She’s dead?” Brown said. “Oh, my God. Oh, no.”

Forest Acres police officers and Richland County sheriff’s deputies planned to work through the night, canvassing the area where the van was left.

The robbery occurred before the bank was scheduled to open and forced the lockdown of several area schools as authorities searched the area with dogs and a helicopter.

There have been no recent similar armed robberies, and it is the first homicide in Forest Acres in at least three years, Sealy said.

“It’s unusual certainly for us to have this type of crime and have someone shot in broad daylight on a busy street,” Sealy said.

Bank of America is working with local law enforcement, said spokeswoman Nicole Nastacie in a statement.

“This is a very unfortunate incident, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”

Bob Watkins Jr., 58, who lives in Spring Valley and came to the bank Wednesday to find the door locked, was surprised by the incident.

“I’ve always felt like Columbia, S.C., is reasonably safe and this is a great neighborhood and a great place to live,” he said.

Cindy Holland, 57, who used to live in Forest Acres, used the drive-up ATM on Wednesday.

“I usually feel safe here,” she said. “That’s a shame. You don’t expect it to happen in Forest Acres.”

-- Reach Higgins at (803) 771-8570. Staff Writer Rick Brundrett, rbrundrett@thestate.com, contributed to this report.

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