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Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Ernest Stewart Daise, charged with killing his girlfriend and her 4-year-old son and wounding the couple's 2-year-old son during a shooting in Dale in 2009.
During a hearing Monday, 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone explained theaggravating circumstances that qualify it as a capital case: Daise is accused of killing two or more people and killing a child 11 years old or younger.
Daise, 28, is accused of shooting to death his girlfriend Jeanine Mullen, 34, and her son Waltfredo-Davis Mullen at their home on Player Road on Nov. 15, 2009. Daise also is accused of shooting his son, who also was Mullen's child, during the incident. The boy, who was 2 at the time, survived after treatment at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Mullen was a single mother of four and a kindergarten teaching assistant at Shanklin Elementary School.
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and appearing before Circuit Judge D. Craig Brown in the Beaufort County Courthouse, Daise did not enter a plea and was appointed two lawyers for his defense -- county Chief Public Defender Trasi Campbell, who has represented Daise since November 2009, and Sam Bauer of Hilton Head Island.
Seeing Daise in the courtroom was difficult for Alleen Porter, Mullen's best friend and coworker and one of more than 17 of the victims' friends and relatives who attended the hearing.
Daise "showed no remorse," smiled and even appeared to smirk throughout the proceedings, Porter said.
"Most people have mixed feelings about how he should be punished," Porter said after the hearing. "We did hope for the death penalty. At the end of the day, we just want the punishment to fit the crime."
Porter and others have described Mullen as a warmhearted friend and loving mother, who put her family first and had a passion for children.
Mullen's parents, Frank and Roberta Mullen, care for her three surviving children.
Mullen's wounded son underwent rehabilitation and is "doing really well," Porter said.
Daise and Mullen had been together about four years before her death, Porter said, but their relationship was tumultuous.
Porter described Daise as being "good one day, not so good the next."
Mullen constantly forgave him for mistreating her and her family, Porter said.
"It was very difficult because she saw the good in everyone," she said. "It's hard to get out, especially when there are children involved."
Daise, who also has been charged with assault with intent to kill and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, has been denied bond and remains in the Beaufort County Detention Center, according to the jail log.
His criminal record, which dates to 1998, includes multiple drug charges, resisting arrest and other charges. He has been arrested nine times in Beaufort County, according to the jail log.
He also was sentenced to six years in prison on a 2001 aggravated-assault charge and had a pending domestic-violence charge from January 2009 at the time of the shooting, according to the jail log and court records.