South Carolina

Buying on Craigslist? Consider doing so at Beaufort County police stations

After the recent murder of a couple in Georgia in a Craigslist deal, the Bluffton Police Department has asked residents to use its main building on Buckwalter Place as a meeting place for online transactions.

Bluffton police announced Feb. 6 that the front door, lobby, and parking lot can now be used as meeting places to complete online purchases, in an effort to prevent crimes that could occur at those meetings. The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office is offering the same.

Meeting at the police station at 101 Progressive St. would also ensure sellers are ethical and honorable about the wares they are offering, police Lt. Scott Chandler said in the Feb. 6 announcement.

Although Bluffton police have not had any incidents stemming from online transactions in recent memory, the department began discussing offering the building as a location to complete them after a suggestion from a resident, Maj. Joe Manning said. The department decided to put those discussions into action after the murder of a Georgia couple last month, Manning said.

Elrey Runion, 69, and his wife, June, 66, were killed after they posted a Craigslist ad seeking a 1966 Ford Mustang, according to the Telfair County Sheriff's Office. Investigators said after the couple's murders that the motive for responding to their ad appeared to be robbery, and that the man charged with their murder, 28-year-old Jay Towns, never owned a Ford Mustang.

A study released by Law Street Media in October found that since 2009, 45 people had been killed after responding to Craigslist postings and 58 people had been charged with murder. Included on that list of people charged were Jquan Scott and Isaac Williams, Charleston-area men accused of killing Beaufort resident and College of Charleston student Alex Apps in October 2013.

Scott and Williams had responded to the Craigslist ad Apps had posted for his Chevrolet pickup truck and communicated with Apps for weeks about purchasing it. After meeting with the two men at a Charleston Hardee's, Apps was shot and killed by the two men as he let one of them test drive the truck, according to the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.

Both men are still jailed at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County awaiting trial, according to jail records. A trial date has not been set, 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office spokeswoman Naomi Nation said Feb. 13.

Apps' death remains the only incident connected to online transactions the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office has investigated, Capt. Bob Bromage said.

Bromage urged people engaging in online transactions to meet in public places to complete them -- including the parking lots at the Sheriff's Office in Beaufort and on Hilton Head Island -- instead of conducting them in someone's home. Attempts to reach the Beaufort and Port Royal police departments were unsuccessful Friday.

A person who declines to meet in public should be a warning sign, he said.

"Transactions or meetings with people not wanting to meet in a public place are a huge red flag and should be avoided," Bromage said.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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