Former inmate says defendant confessed to Hilton Head Island murder in jail

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Former inmate says defendant confessed to Hilton Head Island murder in jail

Published Wednesday, February 27, 2013   |  677 Words  |  

An ex-girlfriend of a man on trial for murder testified Wednesday that he confessed while speaking to her through a vent that linked their cells at the Beaufort County Detention Center.

Brittany Raines, a former love interest of defendant Jerry Scantling, took the stand on the second day of his murder trial despite objections from the defense.

According to Raines, Scantling admitted he shot Leonard Green of Hilton Head Island. Raines said Scantling made the admission while speaking to her through a vent at the county jail.

Green's body was found May 23, 2010, at the Pinckney Island boat landing. Scantling was jailed days later on unrelated charges, and was eventually charged with the murder a year later.

Though she was housed in the women's block and Scantling in the men's, correctional officers corroborated her account that a vent connected their cells -- and that both she and Scantling were reprimanded for talking through it.

Scantling's attorney, Matthew Walker, wanted Raines excluded as a witness, calling her a "jailhouse informant" who had talked to law enforcement in the hopes that her own charges of forgery would be reduced.

Walker also said her testimony was unreliable, since in previous statements she had combined what Scantling told her directly through the vent with details she heard elsewhere.

But 14th Judicial Circuit solicitor Sean Thornton said his office made no deals with Raines in exchange for her testimony.

The forgery charges are now pending indictment in federal court, Raines said.

After some deliberation, Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen allowed Raines to testify so long as she spoke only about her direct conversations with Scantling.

Under questioning by Thornton, Raines provided details of the jailhouse conversations.

"He told me he killed a gay man," Raines said from the stand.

Earlier in the day's proceedings, Walker said Green made sexual advances toward Scantling and offered him money.

Walker questioned Beaufort County Sheriffs's Office detectives about whether the victim was known to solicit sex, but Capt. Bob Bromage said there was no evidence of that.

In interviews with law enforcement, Scantling said he didn't even accept Green's offer of a ride.

However, according to testimony from residents of Hilton Head Gardens, Scantling was seen driving Green's truck just hours after the murder.

Raines said Scantling told her he had stolen the truck, abandoned it in Savannah and driven back to Beaufort in another stolen car.

She said Scantling also told her details about how many times he shot Green -- twice -- and what weapon he used -- a Hi-Point .45 caliber pistol.

That gun was found at the murder scene where Green's body was recovered. According to testimony from expert analysts who processed evidence from the scene, Scantling's DNA was not found on the weapon.

The trial continues today, with just one more witness expected to testify.

The prosecution and defense will then give their closing statements and the jury will begin deliberations.

Related content

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  2. Judge declares mistrial in case of murdered Hilton Head man, October 25, 2012
  3. Hilton Head murder trial begins, October 24, 2012