MARLBORO COUNTY, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — With a half-hour to spare, Tammy Bullock’s red Cadillac wheeled into the Bennettsville Police Department parking lot. The former Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge opened her door and popped open her Gamecocks umbrella.
Her attorney joined Bullock and the pair walked into the city courtroom for Bullock’s preliminary hearing; prepared to launch an assault on the felony pointing and presenting charge filed against her Nov. 4.
Bullock was booked into the Marlboro County jail on Nov. 4 after surrendering to BPD investigators. The department charged Bullock on Feb. 5 with a misdemeanor pointing and presenting city ordinance after Bullock’s roommate told police the then-deputy probate judge pointed a gun in her face and threatened to shoot her inside the home the women rented on Palmetto Street.
Police investigators upgraded Bullock’s charge to the state-level felony pointing and presenting charge on Nov. 4. The upgraded charge meant the city’s original misdemeanor charge was dismissed.
“I’ll f—ing shoot you Shanda,” the victim in the case, Shanda Nash, quoted Bullock as saying when Nash interviewed with FOX 46 in August. Nash was inside the courtroom for Bullock’s preliminary hearing on Nov. 22.
“She (Nash) stated that Mrs. Bullock then comes out her bedroom and pointed a silver handgun in her face which made her fall to floor. Mrs. Nash’s daughter also stated a similar story. When I interviewed the defendant, she had a slightly different story,” Bennettsville Police Investigator Amber Hendrix told the court from the witness stand Monday.
Hendrix testified that Nash’s “juvenile” daughter also witnessed the encounter between Bullock and Nash and that the daughter also gave investigators a video recorded statement in February.
“Mrs. Bullock stated Mrs. Nash was throwing things around, which is why she came out her room. Mrs. Bullock did admit to having a handgun in her hand during my interview, but she also stated it was down by her side. She also stated she never pointed the handgun at Mrs. Nash,” Hendrix testified.
Bullock’s attorney, Leary McKenzie, questioned Hendrix about the department’s decision to upgrade the charge more than nine months later, “So, what’s new? What new evidence is there to warrant increasing my client’s charge from a misdemeanor to a felony,” McKenzie asked.
“Seemed like the best to do at the time,” Hendrix said.
BPD Chief Kevin Miller told FOX 46 Chief Investigator Jody Barr he would have the Bullock investigation “reviewed” following an interview on Oct. 11, “Just to, once again, reaffirm my pledge to everyone that—on both sides—that we’re going to make sure that we do everything possible here to ensure this case is done 100% the right way the first time. I don’t want to leave anything to question to anybody.”
Bullock’s original misdemeanor charge carried a fine and up to 30 days in jail, if convicted. The upgraded felony charge could carry up to five years in prison upon a conviction.
The chief had the city attorney review his department’s handling of the case. The attorney found no wrongdoing, as did the State Law Enforcement Division after Miller asked SLED to investigate his department’s handling of the Bullock case.
“At this time no information or evidence has been obtained to warrant SLED opening a new criminal investigation into this matter. There is no evidence to indicate anything improper was done by the arresting agency or officers. Any cursory review of the initial arrest would be handled by the City Attorney or Solicitor’s Office,” a SLED spokesman wrote in a statement on Oct. 12.
The city decided to dismiss the misdemeanor charge and upgrade the gun charge following the internal review.
“I want people to understand; whether or not me going to another state law enforcement agency, going to the solicitor’s office, having an independent review by our own city attorney—I need that transparency because I need the public to understand that we’re in a position that we know we have to rely on the public’s trust and at no time do I ever want to call that into question,” Miller told FOX 46 in October.
Miller was not at Bullock’s hearing and is not listed as a witness in the case. Bullock’s attorney said he filed a subpoena with the city for Miller’s attendance. Miller told FOX 46 he is out of state on a vacation that was scheduled months ago.
Bullock’s attorney also went after the gun evidence investigators collected, pointing out what he saw as “inconsistencies” in Nash’s description of the gun she said Bullock pointed at her face. Bullock admitted to carrying two guns with her during the argument: one in her purse and another in her hand. Bullock owns a Smith and Wesson .380 caliber, which is black.
Bullock also owns a purple and silver-colored handgun, according to testimony at Monday’s hearing.
Nash’s statement to investigators in February shows Nash accurately described both of Bullock’s guns, but Bullock’s attorney argued Nash erred in her description of which gun she claimed Bullock pointed at her head in February.
“They made me look bad. I never said there was a hammer, I couldn’t remember. I know it was silver. I have no reason to lie but when you have a gun pointed in your face you’re not looking for details in the gun,” Nash told FOX 46 following the hearing.
McKenzie continued questioning Hendrix over many other elements in the case, specifically his frustrations over a discovery request he filed with the city on Oct. 26. McKenzie questioned Hendrix over why discovery in the case was not provided to him as of Monday’s hearing.
Judge Dominicia Stuckey stopped McKenzie during his cross-examination to remind him of the purpose of Monday’s hearing.
“Mr. McKenzie, this hearing is simply for probable cause, so I need you to limit your question to the evidence she’s presented just for the probable cause. If you have any other concerns, any other motions, they are within the jurisdiction of general sessions and I urge you to present them to that circuit court judge because right now we’re just handling probable cause, okay,” Stuckey said.
“Your honor, I do have a couple of other motions. As Detective Hendrix mentioned earlier, my client was originally charged under a city ordinance and it was dismissed. Now she’s here facing an enhanced charge for the same set of facts that gave rise to that original charge. This is double jeopardy, your honor. This is within your provision to dismiss this case,” McKenzie argued.
Although Bullock was set to be tried on the city misdemeanor charge on Nov. 16, the case was dismissed, and the trial never happened.
“No person shall be subject to the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or liberty. South Carolina pretty much mirrors the U.S. Constitution,” McKenzie argued to the judge as the reason Bullock’s charge should be dismissed.
“Your motion is denied,” Stuckey told McKenzie.
McKenzie made at least two motions to dismiss the case against Bullock during the hearing. Stuckey denied both motions, including one final attempt from Bullock’s side to convince there was no probable cause for her arrest on Nov. 4.
“Your honor, I move that this matter be dismissed for lack of probable cause, the standard is pretty clear—a reasonable person would have to think a crime is committed, and my client did it, the statements inconsistent—describes a gun that is nonexistent. A gun with a hammer, a silver gun and she actually says she meant the purple gun, she never mentioned purple,” McKenzie said.
“It’s just too farfetched, your honor, given the circumstances. Roommates fighting, one being forced to leave the home, days later filed a police report. It’s just not believable, your honor. I don’t believe it rises to the level of probable cause and we ask that this matter be dismissed,” McKenzie said in his final statement to the judge.
Bullock’s legal fight to keep her case out of the state’s felony courts failed.
“Based on the totality of the evidence presented, I find that there is probable cause for the arrest, this case is bound over to general sessions court and we are adjourned,” Stuckey said as she gathered her paperwork and left the bench.
Typically Bullock’s case would be prosecuted by 4th Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers’ office. Rogers cited a conflict of interest in a separate criminal investigation involving Bullock from allegations she helped ransack a dead man’s home in search of his will on Jan. 24.
Bullock is accused of impersonating a judge when she met with Hollis Slade’s sister on Jan. 24, claiming she was a “probate judge” in an audio recording captured by security cameras outside Slade’s home. Slade’s sister, Beth Boling, told FOX 46 and SLED Bullock identified herself as a probate judge when Boling arrived at her late brother’s home on Jan. 24, the day following his death.
Bullock is also accused of being present when Slade’s friends carried property out of his home and loaded it into their vehicles. This happened while Slade’s wife, Joyce, was inside the home. Joyce Slade suffers from severe dementia.
SLED opened a criminal investigation into Bullock on August 30. That investigation is ongoing.