Crime & Courts

Teen said friend shot himself in the head, but now he’s charged with murder, SC cops say

Timothy Mark Easterling Jr. was charged with murder by the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office.
Timothy Mark Easterling Jr. was charged with murder by the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office. Berkeley County Sheriff's Office

A South Carolina teenager has been charged with murder, among other crimes, in the death of a friend which he initially said was suicide, the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office said.

Around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Timothy Mark Easterling Jr. called 911 to report a suicide, the Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook.

The 17-year-old said his friend was in his room, and responding deputies found a person on the floor who had been shot in the head, according to the Facebook post.

The victim was taken to an area hospital, where he died, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Berkeley County Coroner’s Office identified the gunshot victim as Joseph Melton, 22, who “was shot to death by another individual at point-blank range,” WCIV reported. After performing an autopsy, the death has been ruled a homicide by the coroner, according to WCSC.

According to an arrest report, Easterling said Melton shot himself “while playing with a gun,” ultimately admitting he shot him in the head, then wiped down the handgun “to destroy evidence,” reported.

Easterling was charged with murder, obstructing justice, possession of a firearm during a violent crime, and unlawful possession of a firearm, jail records show.

The teen is being held in the Berkeley County Detention Center after his bond was denied, according to jail records.

The Sheriff’s Office said it is continuing to investigate the deadly shooting.

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.