Crime & Courts

Woman jailed, snake released in carjacking that used reptile as weapon, SC police say

Police identified the suspect in an alleged vehicle theft that involved a snake as a weapon and ended after a police chase in downtown Greenville. They also identified the snake.

The Greenville Police Department charged Hilmary Moreno-Berrios, 29, with carjacking and malicious damage to property along with five traffic citations. The charges came after police accused Moreno-Berrios of throwing a snake and sticks at a woman and demanding the victim’s car keys while near an upscale apartment complex.

Friday, Moreno-Berrios stole the woman’s Honda CR-V and drove through downtown Greenville and the Main Street area, crashing into barriers and equipment that were set up for a pole-vaulting event scheduled for the next day, according to the police department. People ran and jumped out of the way as the SUV burst through the barrier and onto the sidewalk, video shows. Police attempted to stop Moreno-Berrios but she continued to wind her way through heavily populated parts of downtown until she crashed into a vehicle with a mother and daughter inside, police said. It was the mother’s birthday.

Moreno-Berrios ran from the wreck and an officer chased her, police reported. When the officer caught her, she fought until police got her into handcuffs. She was taken for medical treatment because of a reported shoulder injury. She remained in psychiatric evaluation and testing over the weekend.

“Remarkably, no other injuries were reported,” the department said in a statement.

Monday, Moreno-Berrios was released from medical care and arrested. She was jailed at the Greenville County Detention Center, the department said. A judge gave her a $25,000 bond but she remains in custody, according to department spokesperson Brandon Lavorgna.

Police cited the defendant with hit and run, failure to stop for blue lights, resisting arrest, driving on a closed street and reckless driving.

Officers found the snake alive in the stolen SUV. The department identified the reptile as a nonvenomous black snake. Because the snake wasn’t poisonous and was still living, police released the reptile into nearby woods, the department said.

The cost of damage to the equipment for the pole vaulting competition, known as the Liberty Bridge Jump-Off, totaled $17,225, police said. The event still happened the next day despite the incident. The event featured Olympic pole vaulting silver medalist and Greenville native Sandi Morris.

Carjacking is when a person takes or attempts to take a vehicle by force, violence or intimidation while the owner operates the vehicle. The crime is a felony punishable with up to 20 years in prison. A judge can increase the sentence to 30 years if great bodily injury occurs.

David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.