MARLBORO COUNTY, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Within a few minutes of Beth Boling’s Jan. 21, 2022 call to the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office, her phone rang. The caller ID showed a South Carolina area code.
Boling immediately thought it was about the criminal investigation into allegations her late brother’s former coworkers and hunting buddies stole from his estate.
“So, what’s going on? Do you have any updates for me,” Beth Boling asked South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Captain Glenn Wood. Wood leads SLED’s Pee Dee Region office located in Florence, SC.
The investigation into Hollis Slade’s estate is headquartered at that SLED office.
“That’s what I was calling about. I got a call from Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office; you had reached out to them. And I called Tina (Lt. Tina Carter) and she didn’t know anything about that,” Wood told Boling in the recorded phone call.
Boling decided to start recording her calls with SLED after Boling said agents were telling her details about the investigation; details Boling said she didn’t think made sense. Boling called the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office to ask about her legal rights as Slade’s personal representative to access hunting clubs her brother helped “bank roll” and to collect that property.
Boling believes property and hound dogs that belonged to her brother are still there. Well, were there at the time her brother died on Jan. 23, 2021.
“I was trying to get everything ironed out because they didn’t want to do anything that was going to mess up our investigation,” Wood told Boling in the call. “So, I’m really just calling to see what you had going on.”
“I was just trying to get some stuff so we could sell it for Joyce,” Boling told Wood.
Wood cautioned Boling that what she was doing could jeopardize SLED’s investigation. Boling decided to stop pursuing the claim and delivery route.
The Bolings have waited more than 14 months for law enforcement to help them recover property they believe was stolen within hours of Slade’s death in January 2021. Security cameras outside Slade’s Bennettsville home showed within hours of Slade’s death, Matthew Tomlinson, a young man Slade mentored, Tomlinson’s mother Charlotte Green, Tomlins’s stepfather Ricky Gardner, and family friend Will Adams drive up and go inside Slade’s home.
The recordings showed the group going in and out of Slade’s home. Their conversations indicated the group was searching for Slade’s will and Adams used his cell phone to place several calls to coroner’s offices and probate attorneys. Gardner, in one recording, told the group he’d searched Slade’s personal computer.
Slade’s wife, Joyce, was inside at the time. Joyce Slade suffers from what her family described as “severe dementia” requiring around-the-clock care.
The recordings also captured Tammy Bullock telling the group she would tell the Bolings she was “a probate judge” when the Bolings arrived from Indiana. Bullock, though, at the time had only been appointed as Probate Judge Mark Heath’s deputy probate judge. Bullock wasn’t sworn in until March 15, 2021 – seven weeks after Slade’s death.
We again asked Gardner, Green, Tomlinson, Adams, and Bullock for an interview to explain their side in this report. No one in the group responded to our outreach.
Just before the Bolings arrived from Indiana, a recording showed Bullock, Green, and Tomlinson standing in Slade’s driveway discussing what to say to the Bolings. Green also confirmed she’d taken money and property from the home.
“I told her I got that money. I said I’m not going to leave that money sitting in that house for complete strangers to come and we not know what’s going on with it,” Green told Bullock. “I said, you got to get paid, I said (inaudible) got to get paid…I said (inaudible),” Green said.
Joyce Slade’s caretaker, Linda Hood, told Queen City News Chief Investigator Jody Barr that after Slade’s death, she and Joyce gathered cash Slade had “stashed” around the home and placed it into a gallon sized plastic bag. Hood said she hid the bag in Joyce’s bedroom dresser, along with a pistol.
“I got that pistol out that drawer,” Green admitted in one of the videos recorded the day after Slade’s death. That statement was made in a video recorded after Bullock arrived at Slade’s home on Jan. 24, 2021.
Green and Gardner later returned roughly $2,000 to the Slade family, Boling said. Hood said the gallon bag was “full of $100 bills,” but Boling said the bag returned to them did not contain a single $100 bill and it wasn’t a gallon-sized bag.
The recordings show the group knew the Bolings were on the way to South Carolina when this all happened.
On Jan. 28, 2021, the Bolings asked Marlboro County Sheriff Charles Lemon to investigate the conduct depicted in the videos and to investigate the accused. The recordings showed multiple conversations outside Slade’s home discussing property that belonged to Slade, Slade’s finances, and not telling Slade’s family about a document the group found inside the home showing a balance of $200,000.
The sheriff told the Bolings he’d immediately launch an investigation, but never did. Sheriff Lemon later confirmed in an Oct. 15 letter to Barr that his office did nothing with the allegations against the deputy probate judge and the others. In July, the sheriff’s lead investigator sent the records and videos the Bolings provided the sheriff on Jan. 26.
“I’m feeling that same sense of frustration that I felt with Marlboro County, that nothing’s really happening, that they’re paying lip service to try and appease me or wear me out,” Boling said.
Our investigation found it took SLED an additional two months to open an investigation into the theft allegations.
RECORDINGS: Inside the Investigation
Beth Boling admits, she’s ashamed of a decision she made in January 2022 regarding her communications with SLED agents. Boling said she downloaded a phone recording app onto her cell phone and decided to audio record what SLED agents were telling her about the criminal investigation into her brother’s estate.
Boling said she felt ashamed of the decision, but felt she needed to document the calls to prevent SLED from doing what the Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office did with the case last year.
“That’s not me. I don’t think I had another choice but that’s very uncomfortable for me,” Boling said in a March 2022 interview along with her daughter, Sara, with Barr at their home in Indiana. “I think it’s also relevant that our experience in Marlboro County was the sheriff, Sheriff Lemon, telling us one thing and then changing his mind. So being able to have a record of what we were told, seemed important,” Sara Boling said.
The Bolings recorded two calls with SLED this past January: one with SLED Captain Glenn Wood on the 21st and the other with Wood and lead investigator Lt. Tina Carter on Jan. 26th.
Capt. Wood confirmed, five months into the state investigation, agents still had not finished reviewing the security camera videos. However, SLED had already interviewed at least one of the accused at the time, “I was waiting on the agents to finish reviewing and I’ll be honest, I don’t want to sound lazy, but I wanted that cliff notes version,” Wood told Boling.
Wood confirmed in the calls that SLED had at least two agents assigned to the Slade investigation. Lt. Tina Carter is considered the lead investigator and agent Nathan Polson is also working the case. Wood said Polson, who recently joined SLED, is tasked with watching and transcribing the conversations captured in the security camera videos.
Wood confirmed agents had already interviewed Ricky Gardner, the man the videos show helped search Slade’s home and removed the bulk of the items from Slade’s home on Jan. 24. “I think Tina has interviewed him,” Wood told Boling, “You think that she has or don’t think,” Boling asked.
“I think she has,” Wood replied.
Wood discussed the importance of the videos when questioning the accused, and confirmed in the calls that Gardner, Bullock, Green, and Tomlinson had hired attorneys and going back to them for follow up interviews would be tough, “We could go back to them and say, hey, why did you say this here and we’ll have it documented in quotes,” Wood told Boling.
“The bad thing is, all of them have attorneys and the attorneys aren’t going to let you push them but so far and if they think that you’re pushing into something that…,” Wood said, “Admitting, admitting guilt,” Boling interjected, “It’s over with. He’s not going to answer that question, or she’s not going to answer that question,” Wood said.
In the Jan. 26 call, Wood confirmed agents still had not finished reviewing the videos, “We’ve been conducting interviews. But we’ve paused on conducting interviews to go back and review all of these videos and try to look through every document and everything that you have sent Tina,”: Wood said.
Agents had, as of Jan. 26, interviewed each of the accused. Wood disclosed that in the call when the Bolings questioned SLED about not being able to conduct follow up interviews, “We have interviewed – and I’ll tell you – we have interviewed Ricky, Matthew, Tammy, and Charlotte and we can’t bring them; we have to ask them. It’s not like you go grab them, and you gone come sit down in this room and talk to us. But we have interviewed them,” Wood said.
Boling told Wood she was concerned with the order SLED chose to conduct its investigation and how she believed interviewing the accused before watching all the videos didn’t make sense.
“You told the SLED agent in the call you felt that was backward,” Barr asked Boling during the March interview.
“Yes. I still believe it’s backwards. I believe if you have evidence to look at before you question someone who’s accused of wrongdoing you look at the evidence,” Boling said.
“Absolutely that was a mistake. I mean, I understand if you go and talk to somebody who’s accused of a crime and there’s just an accusation, and you have no evidence, no proof, I understand going to talk to that person without – you have no evidence to look at. But when you have evidence to look at, and you don’t look at it, I can’t fit that in my brain. It doesn’t. It doesn’t compute. Now, I of course, I’m not trained law enforcement. But I have a brain that doesn’t, that doesn’t fit in it,” Boling told Queen City News.
SLED also confirmed in the Jan. 21 call that the agency’s computer crimes unit had finished downloading all the data from Slade’s cell phone. Boling sent SLED her brother’s phone in November and got it back on Feb. 10.
Wood told Boling that Carter would use the cell phone data to identify a second group of people to interview. That list would likely include people Slade communicated with over texts and social media.
PROSECUTION DOUBTS WITHIN SLED
January’s phone call with SLED Captain Glenn Wood isn’t the first time SLED’s received criticism of its handling of the security camera videos. After getting the videos last July, SLED determined the Bolings’ allegations were not criminal before the agency watched the first frame of video.
“SLED did confer with the AG’s office on Aug. 31 regarding this matter and as previously stated, this was determined to be a civil matter. If at any point credible evidence is brought forward showing possible criminal violations, we will evaluate and consider reopening the inquiry,” SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby told Queen City News in a Sept. 22, 2021 email.
SLED later rescinded that statement, later acknowledging the agency provided misinformation, citing a “miscommunication” in its press office. SLED said the reason agents didn’t watch the videos between July and August was because investigators were awaiting a ruling from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office on whether wiretapping laws applied to the recordings.
SLED also confirmed to us in September 2021 the agency opened a criminal investigation into the Bolings’ allegations on August 31.
In November, SLED received a packet of information from Marlboro County Sheriff’s Lt. Trevor Murphy detailing what Murphy described as multiple instances of corruption involving Sheriff Charles Lemon and other members of the sheriff’s office. The packet, titled ‘Lemon Laws,’ also included a body camera recording of Lemon ordering Deputy Andrew Cook to use a Taser on an inmate in May 2021.
SLED opened an investigation into the sheriff’s office in November. The sheriff and Cook were indicted on Dec. 14 in connection to the body camera recording.
State investigators said the investigation and a Marlboro County murder on Dec. 14 pulled agents off the Slade investigation.
Beth Boling said she didn’t ask for an investigation expecting anyone to be charged, but for investigators to give her family a good-faith effort at figuring out whether Slade’s estate was victimized, “To find out the truth. To find out what happened to the things that left Hollis’ house, why they left his house, and what – if there were going to be any consequences, because I believe they were taken unlawfully,” Boling told Queen City News.
In the Jan. 26 call with the Bolings, Capt. Wood didn’t indicate agents were confident they’d be able to prove a crime was committed, “I’ll be honest with you, this isn’t as clear cut as some investigations we have. It’s going to take a lot of digging and a lot of luck,” Wood said in the recorded call.
“I would say it’s probably a lot of people that took advantage of Mr. Hollis’ generosity,” Wood opined in the call, “There were a lot of people took advantage of it both when he was alive and especially after his death.”
“We’ve got to prove the intent that they stole it. I think that’s going to be the issue between you and I,” Wood told Boling in the Jan. 21 call. The videos and the conversations captured in them, the Bolings believed, show the intent.
Wood explained that interviews with the accused revealed more problems for investigators in their pursuit to prove whether anything was actually stolen from Slade’s estate, “You know, this is just a – this is a tough one. It’s a he said, she said with an agreement and like I told you Friday, I wish Mr. Hollis was here so he could sort of stuff out for us and at least point us in the right direction, right? Because it can make things a lot easier.”
Wood said the hunting club operated with verbal agreements and in cash transactions. The Bolings said they found information showing Slade “bankrolled” the hunting club, which Wood acknowledged makes determining what belonged to Slade and what belonged to the club and its members more difficult.
“That’s the burden we’ve got is that whole big organization as the hunting club, unofficial paperwork…them not doing any documentation and it’s a handshake agreement, so to speak. Not having Mr. Hollis here to tell what exactly he did or didn’t do or agree to,” Wood told Boling.
WITNESSES NOT INTERVIEWED
When we called Linda Hood on March 18, she had not been interviewed by SLED agents. Hood worked as Joyce Slade’s caretaker for four years when Hollis Slade died on Jan. 23, 2021. Hood was also the one who collected the cash stashed around Slade’s home and hid it in Joyce’s dresser following Slade’s death.
The Bolings first learned that Hood hadn’t been interviewed in the Jan. 26 call with Capt. Wood, “Have you had the opportunity to talk to Linda Hood,” Boling asked Wood and Lt. Tina Carter. “No, we are waiting until we finish going through everything before we interview her. She’s going to be one of the last interviews,” Carter replied. “Okay. That seems a little backwards to me, but you know what you’re doing, I guess, in your respect,” Boling said.
Hood said she couldn’t understand why investigators hadn’t questioned her.
“For the state law enforcement division to have not interviewed you, at this point, would you consider yourself one of the key witnesses in this case,” Barr asked Hood in the March 18 interview. “Yeah. I knew what was going on. They did too,” Hood said. “But I ain’t telling no lie, I know what they got.”
Hood said when she arrived to stay with Joyce the night following Slade’s death, she knew the group had searched Slade’s home. Hood also said Green told her she took the money Hood hid in Joyce’s dresser, “Why would anybody have a reason to be in her room going through her dressers,” Barr asked Hood. “Nobody should have been going in there going through nothing. They ain’t kin to Mr. Hollis and they shouldn’t have been there. I worked with him for four years and it wasn’t my place to go through it,” Hood said.
Hood confirmed the pistol she and Joyce hid in the same drawer was also missing.
Hood didn’t know SLED had interviewed Gardner, Green, Tomlinson, and Bullock. She also didn’t know SLED hadn’t finished watching the videos when agents conducted those interviews, “How can you decide what’s going on if you’re not going to watch the video? The video tells you what’s going on. I don’t see how you can just ask somebody questions and say, well, that’s it, we can’t do nothing else,” Hood told Barr.
On March 25, Hood said she got a call from SLED asking to schedule an interview with her. That SLED call came two days after we detailed the elements of our report to Ryan Alphin, SLED’s Executive Affairs Director. Those details included the allegations agents had yet to interview people the Bolings believed were key witnesses.
Agents traveled to Hood’s Marlboro County home on March 28 and video recorded an interview with Linda Hood.
SLED agents also called Kath Shockley on March 25, two days after our call with Alphin, to ask her for an interview. Shockley said she’d never heard from anyone with SLED until the March 25 call. The Bolings hired Shockley just weeks after Slade’s death to go to his Marlboro County home and inventory Slade’s belongings and to research his financial records in an effort to figure out what property might be missing from Slade’s estate.
SLED knew about Shockley months before when the Bolings informed SLED she was the one who helped compile a spreadsheet of items the family believes were stolen.
“She kept records of exactly what they sold and exactly what – she’s the one who actually found like the receipts and the owner’s manuals and that kind of stuff. So she would have not noted that as a missing item as she had sold it,” Boling told Wood and Carter in the Jan. 26 recorded call.
Shockley said she had an hour and 26-minute-long call with agents on March 30.
The only other potential witness we found directly involved in Slade’s estate is Bobby Norris. Norris lived a few doors down from Slade and reported Bullock’s involvement in the security videos to Marlboro County Probate Judge Mark Heath on Jan. 29, just days after the Bolings discovered the security camera recordings.
Norris said Lt. Carter and a male SLED agent went to his home in early March to interview him and his wife. Norris is also the person who submitted the tip to Queen City News that led to our ‘Final Disrespects’ investigative series.
“I don’t know if I officially have been interviewed or not. I did have some phone calls with them, but I’ve never heard them sit down and say this is an interview,” Beth Boling told Barr in a March 2022 interview. “A SLED agent’s never come to you with a pen and paper to take notes, to record an interview, to get a statement from you at all,” Barr asked, “Not at all. No, sir. Never.”
SLED had also not interviewed Sara Boling, who was with her mother on the trip to South Carolina the day after Slade’s death. The Bolings went back to Marlboro County at the end of February to prepare Slade’s home to sell it. Boling said she messaged SLED the week before to let the agents know she’d be in town if they needed interviews.
SLED, the Bolings said, contacted the Bolings hours before they were set to leave South Carolina for Indiana, asking for an interview with Sara.
On March 1, Sara Boling walked into SLED’s Pee Dee Region Office and was escorted to an interview room. “They basically asked me to run down the whole account of everything that happened, which was quite a lot. And then they went back through and asked, you know, some questions about well, ‘Did you ever you know, how do you know this?’ Or ‘How did you find out this information?’ Or ‘Did you ever do this or try that’ or that sort of stuff,” Boling said.
The interview lasted just over an hour. Beth Boling said agents did not interview her that day.
The Bolings believed a conversation with Wood and Carter following that March 1 interview confirmed their belief that SLED was suggesting the Bolings negotiate a settlement with those accused of stealing from Hollis Slade’s estate.
“In a perfect world, you would think that a hunting club as a collective group, not as a person, would sit down with you and say, ‘Listen, Mr. Hollis – even though we did it together, we feel like he has put this X number of dollars in this hunting club, we want to give it to you,” Captain Glenn Wood told Beth Boling in a Jan. 21 recorded phone call.
“And work out some type of settlement there. In a perfect world that’s what I would see as the uh – a good resolve,” Wood said. “You wouldn’t get everything you wanted, but you would get something to make you feel better and they ought to be able to sleep at night knowing that they did the right thing.”
Boling agreed, telling Wood she and her daughter tried to work something out with Ricky Gardner regarding the hunting club and hound dogs immediately following Slade’s death, “In those original conversations with Ricky, we said to him, ‘We know this is a big load for you, but obviously, we can’t feed and water the dogs. We can’t do that from Indiana. So, if you do it, we will pay you for it. Because at that time Ricky was admitting to us that almost all the dogs except for a couple of puppies and I think two dogs that he co-owned with Hollis were – all of the rest of the dogs were Hollis’,” Boling told Wood.
“We were offering to, until we could sell them, be fair with him and he never; when we got past that initial conversation, he didn’t ever tell us okay, this is what the dog food’s costing, this is what this is costing, you know, we’re doing this how many times a day. I mean, he never came up with that because I feel like he decided hey, I could just take possession of all this,” Boling continued.
Wood mentioned a settlement scenario to the Bolings again in the Jan. 26 call, “That’s why when I talked to you on Friday, it would be so nice if everybody could sit down at one table and say, let’s let bygones be bygones and here’s the amount and agree on amount that Mr. Hollis was financially responsible for the dog club and could call it a day. I don’t know that that can happen, but it was just a perfect world solution. Where everybody could be happy,” Wood said.
Following Sara Boling’s March 1 interview, the Bolings said Lt. Tina Carter also suggested the family work out a settlement with the accused.
“They actually, I think, are encouraging us to kind of cut a deal saying things like if the other party should, you know, offer you money, would that make you feel better,” Beth Boling told Queen City News. “He was suggesting that if we could talk about it, and they could pay us for some of the things they took, the things they think they shouldn’t have taken. That basically was the idea, then would I be okay with that.”
“I thought they were doing an investigation,” Beth Boling said.
“As we found out more from the videos, and obviously from our conversations with Ricky, we began to understand wait a minute, this is a takeover,” Boling told Barr. “You don’t believe they had any interest or intent to negotiate anything at this point,” Barr asked, “Do not,” Boling said.
“And reviewing those videos and what was said in those videos, does that further convince you,” Barr asked. “Yes,” Boling replied.
SLED CHIEF: “Confident” of investigation
On March 23, we asked SLED Chief Mark Keel for an interview concerning the Bolings’ criticisms of the SLED investigation. Keel would not agree to an interview, citing his personal policy of not talking about unresolved SLED investigations.
In a March 31 call with Keel, we detailed many of the Bolings’ criticisms. Keel still would not agree to an interview to explain his agents’ handling of the Slade investigation but assured the Bolings of a “thorough” investigation.
Keel also defended his agents’ handling of the investigation.
“I understand that victims’ families are not always happy with the speed that we do an investigation, with the methods that we use about doing the investigation,” Keel said in the call. “I understand that they can have complaints. So, the only thing I would tell – If I was talking to the victim’s family right now, the only thing I would tell them is let us complete our work and let us do our investigation and let the prosecutor review it and then see what the outcome is.”
We asked Keel about his agents not finishing reviewing the video evidence before performing interviews with the accused. Keel said he didn’t know “all the details about this investigation,” but that “I suspect that anybody who had anything to do with this investigation has been interviewed at this point. They may not know that, but the bottom line is I suspect that everybody has been interviewed,” Keel said.
Keel acknowledged he knew Linda Hood’s name. When asked about SLED agents’ contacting Hood just two days after our call to Alphin and whether it was coincidental, “If you’ve got somebody who is that close to the case, somebody who’s that involved, an individual in any case – I’m talking about any case, not just this case. But you’ve got somebody who apparently has access to things that, you know, you say she was a caretaker, wouldn’t you think that before you go interview that person you’d want to talk to some other people and find out what was going on before you went so that when you talk to that person, that individual would not be able to tell you something that you knew, that you could call their hand on and say what you’re telling me is not correct,” Keel explained.
Keel said his agents have “a reason” behind the order in which they interviewed witnesses. “If you want to take credit for the call last week and that we went and interviewed them, then you take credit for it,” Keel said.
Chief Keel said outsiders, including victims’ families, don’t understand the investigative process.
“They’re not law enforcement officers. They don’t do investigations. Because they don’t understand the procedure or the way we go about doing it, I can’t help that. The only thing I can tell you is, is that I’m confident that our agents, when we get finished with this case at the end of the day, the only thing I can tell you is I’m confident that we’re going to be done a thorough investigation and I stand by that,” Keel said in the March 31 call with Queen City News.
Keel analogized the order of interviewing witnesses to that of investigations involving police shootings. Investigators – at times – interview other witnesses before interviewing the officer(s) who fired shots; something Keel said the public uses to criticize those investigations.
We asked Keel if investigators would first review the video evidence in a police shooting before interviewing officers and why that wasn’t done in the Slade estate investigation, “Officer-involved shooting case, you have one video, usually. You’ve got an in-car camera – again, I’m not going to argue with you about what we’ve done. I know that when this case is completed it’s going to be done thoroughly and you can make whatever assumptions you want to make.”
“You don’t know the full picture as I’ve said. You’re relying on information that you’re not fully aware of,” Keel said.
“They have every right to question everything that we do and that’s fine and the only thing I can tell you is just wait and let’s get the outcome.”
Once SLED agents finish their investigation, agents will type up a summary of their findings to send the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office for review. SLED determines what information is included in the report, but the AG’s office could ask for additional interviews and evidence.
Once the AG’s review is finished, that office will determine whether evidence exists to file charges.
Chief Keel also confirmed in the call that he expects the SLED investigation could be finished in the next two weeks. Keel also acknowledged the possibility the AG could determine the Bolings’ claims are civil and not criminal acts.