Man cleared in bomb threat blames predicament on bad timing at Beaufort pay phone

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Man cleared in bomb threat blames predicament on bad timing at Beaufort pay phone

By ANNE CHRISTNOVICH
achristnovich@beaufortgazette.com
Published Wednesday, February 20, 2013   |  475 Words  |  

A new arrest has been made in connection with a January bomb threat at a Beaufort car dealership, and a man previously mistaken for the culprit wants to clear his name.

It appears the only thing linking the two arrests was a convenience-store pay phone where authorities say the threat was placed.

Deondera Jerill Smalls, 18, of St. Helena Island turned himself in to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday and was charged with making a bomb threat Jan. 31 to the Dan Vaden Chevrolet-Cadillac dealership, authorities said.

It is the second arrest the Sheriff's Office has made in connection to the case.

Tarrie Daniel Reynolds, 39, of Beaufort was charged a few hours after a dealership employee received the threatening phone call, but charges against him were dropped Feb. 5.

Reynolds said Wednesday he had used a pay phone at the Sunhouse Petroleum on Trask Parkway, but he didn't make the threat. He was in the Beaufort County Detention Center for six days before his case was dismissed.

Reynolds said that when he was released, deputies told him they reviewed video surveillance from the gas station but made a mistake in matching the video's time stamp with the timing of the call.

"They said the time stamps were off by about 40 minutes," Reynolds said.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. McIntosh declined to confirm those details Wednesday, saying the investigation continues. She also would not say whether Smalls used that phone.

Smalls was released Wednesday afternoon from the Beaufort County Detention Center on personal recognizance.

The bomb-threat caller, reported to authorities by a dealership employee, said there was a bomb hidden in the building. The dealership was evacuated, but no explosives were found.

Smalls has no previous criminal charges in Beaufort County, according to court records.

Reynolds said his attempts to tell deputies he didn't make the threat went unheeded, and he was handcuffed in front of coworkers. Media coverage followed.

Although he once spent 63 days in jail and is on parole for one year for a misdemeanor burglary charge in December, Reynolds said that charge didn't put his name and face in the public eye. He was out of jail for only a week before the bomb-threat arrest.

Reynolds said he was unsure whether he would sue the Sheriff's Office or Beaufort County.

"Now my name is bad all over Beaufort County," he said. "I just think Beaufort County (deputies) need to do a better job investigating before they accuse someone."

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