COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The body of a 30-year-old South Carolina woman who was beaten with a baseball bat was found hours after she frantically called her grandmother to say she was being followed by a man, authorities said Tuesday.
Authorities said Beverly Hope Melton went to a convenience store Monday and was subsequently abducted, sexually assaulted and beaten to death with a bat. A suspect has been charged with killing her.
Early Monday afternoon, Melton called her grandmother to say she thought she was being followed by a stranger she saw at the store, according to Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews.
“She said that there was a black man following her and that she was afraid,” Matthews said. “He had been kind of harassing her a little bit in the store.”
Authorities in neighboring Chesterfield County found Melton’s vehicle in a ditch, the engine still running. The car was in reverse, and her purse was still inside, the sheriff said.
Authorities looked at surveillance video from the convenience store and saw a man they later identified as 23-year-old Nickolas Jermaine Miller harassing Melton.
Miller was being held Tuesday in the Kershaw County jail on a murder charge, and state police said he had no previous criminal record in South Carolina. Matthews said Miller may not have a bond hearing for several weeks and had not requested an attorney.
From the store’s video, authorities were able to get a description of Miller’s vehicle and alerted other officers. A deputy stopped Miller, who agreed to speak with authorities and subsequently confessed to abducting Melton, sexually assaulting her and then beating her to death in Kershaw County, Matthews said.
Miller also told authorities where to find Melton’s body, Matthews said. Using infrared sensors on Monday night, a state police helicopter spotted the woman’s remains in a field behind two abandoned turkey barns.
“This was a horribly brutal and senseless crime,” said Matthews, who said the death was a random attack and that the two did not know each other. “This could have been any one of our wives.”
Melton had been married for about a year, Matthews said. A man who identified himself as Melton’s father-in-law hung up on a reporter, and there was no answer Tuesday at a phone number listed for Melton’s parents.
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