More than five years after baker Kelly Hunnewell was gunned down in a Columbia bakery while making bagels for the college crowd, the last of three men accused in her slaying is set to go on trial on murder charges next month.
State Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning has set Dec. 10 for the trial of Troy Stevenson, 23, who was charged in a predawn July 2013 robbery that went horribly wrong.
Manning set the trial date this week after rejecting a motion by Stevenson’s attorney, Aimee Zmroczek, to have the case dismissed. Zmroczek told Manning the trial had been unduly delayed by prosecutors, adding that delay has made it hard to find key witnesses.
“Five years, three months and 27 days is entirely too long for someone to be in jail and waiting for trial,” Zmroczek told the judge.
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Fifth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Dan Goldberg told Manning that Zmroczek’s appeals had caused much of the delay. He added, “The state is prepared to have the case called for trial on Dec. 10.”
Stevenson was tried for murder in June 2015. But the judge in that trial declared a mistrial after learning a juror had been urging other jurors — before deliberations began — not to convict Stevenson on charges of murder, burglary, kidnapping and attempted armed robbery.
The slaying of Hunnewell, 33, sparked outrage in Columbia.
Hunnewell left motherless four school-age children — then ages 13, 9, 8 and 6.
Also, a Circuit Court judge had allowed one of the defendants, Young, to get out of jail on a $240,000 bond after he was charged with first-degree burglary, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and armed robbery.
Circuit Court Judge Alison Lee, the judge who granted bond to Young in January 2013, was being considered for a prestigious federal judgeship at the time. But in 2014, after The State wrote about Young’s release, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, said he would not support her nomination to the federal bench. Losing Graham’s support effectively killed Lee’s candidacy.
The 2014 trial of Young and Barnes also illustrated a violent part of Columbia life that few talk about — a criminal youth culture where teens carry guns, and rob and kill with little provocation.
At the time Hunnewell was killed, Young was 18, Barnes was 16 and Stevenson was 18. Prosecutors said Barnes, who had a violent record as a juvenile that was revealed in court, was the trigger man.
Barnes now is serving a 50-year sentence in state prison. Young is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
A key issue in the upcoming case is likely to be Stevenson’s degree of involvement in the crime.
According to testimony at the 2014 trial of Barnes and Young, the trio had gone out early on the morning of July 1, 2013, intending to rob a nightclub.
But, when they found the nightclub closed, they saw Hunnewell through an open door at a nearby off-site bakery for Carolina Cafe, a popular bagel shop on Pendleton Street, near the University of South Carolina’s Horseshoe and the State House.
The bagel kitchen that Hunnewell worked at alone was at 13 Tommy Circle, off Beltline Boulevard.
Deputy Solicitor Goldberg told Judge Manning that former 5th Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese has been hired to try the Stevenson case.
In recent months, the 5th Circuit solicitor’s office has been hit hard by the resignation of veteran prosecutors, caused, in part, by federal and state investigations into now-suspended Solicitor Dan Johnson, who faces federal and state fraud charges.
With few veteran prosecutors left to handle complex cases, interim Solicitor Heather Weiss has turned to Giese and Knox McMahon, a retired Circuit Court judge and former prosecutor, to try cases.