RESIGNATION: Judge at center of FOX46 ‘Final Disrespects’ investigation resigns

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MARLBORO COUNTY, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – The second-in-charge at the Marlboro County Probate Judge’s Office is no longer with the office. A call to Judge Mark Heath’s office Friday morning confirmed Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock is no longer with the office.

A woman who answered the phone in the judge’s office confirmed Bullock no longer worked there. The woman did not identify herself and hung up on FOX 46 Chief Investigator Jody Barr when asked when Bullock resigned.

Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock points her cell phone out of the front door of the courthouse on Sept. 24, 2021appearing to photograph FOX 46 Chief Investigator Jody Barr outside the courthouse. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

Follow-up calls to the office were not answered.

Bullock is currently the subject of a criminal investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division and a South Carolina Supreme Court Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigation after FOX 46 aired an investigative series titled ‘Final Disrespects’ on Oct. 5.

The series detailed criminal allegations against Bullock and others who plundered through Hollis Slade’s home in January 2021. Slade died on Jan. 23 and security camera recordings at his home captured audio and video of Bullock and the group discussing searching Slade’s home for a will. The videos showed members of the group walking out of the home with property.

Bullock is also accused of impersonating a probate judge when she met with Slade’s family on Jan. 24; the day after his death.

This all happened over the course of two days in January while Slade’s wife, who suffers from severe dementia, was inside the home.

Bullock and the group never responded to multiple requests to schedule interviews with FOX 46 to explain what happened in those videos.

On Oct. 18, Judge Heath asked the state Supreme Court to reassign Slade’s probate case to another county after Heath wanted to recuse himself from Slade’s estate case. Heath had already spent nearly nine months presiding over the case despite knowing of the allegations against his deputy judge since at least Jan. 29.

Slade’s neighbor, Bobby Norris, told Judge Heath about the criminal allegations against Bullock and the videos during a Jan. 29 phone call. Heath told Norris he’d investigate the allegations, but Norris said he never heard anything further from Heath.

Marlboro County Probate Judge Mark Heath gives a “No comment” response to questions about his knowledge of criminal allegations made against his deputy probate judge, Tammy Bullock during this Sept. 1, 2021 interview at his courthouse office. (WJZY Photo/Stewart Pittman)

Heath swore Bullock into office seven weeks later, granting her full judicial powers in his absence.

Bullock and Heath attended a South Carolina Association of Probate Judges conference at a Myrtle Beach resort this week. Our investigation found Bullock attended the first day of the three-day conference but left the resort after our arrival. Bullock missed two of the three days and the resort confirmed Bullock never checked out of her hotel room for the final two days of the conference.

The conference provided up to 12 continuing legal education, or CLE, hours for all elected probate and appointed probate judges in the state. State regulations require all probate judges to earn 15 CLE hours each year.

We attempted to interview Heath inside the resort at 10:30 Wednesday morning as he waited on an elevator. “No comment,” Heath said as the door closed.

About 30 minutes later we video recorded Heath and a woman carrying luggage through the parking lot and loading it into a vehicle registered to Heath. We followed Heath as he left the resort and got onto the highway out of Myrtle Beach.

Heath attended only 30 minutes of the final day of seminars at the conference. Heath was not in the office Friday morning when we called to ask about Bullock’s employment status.

On Feb. 5, Bennettsville Police charged Bullock with pointing and presenting a firearm during an argument with her roommate. Bullock was never arrested in the case after city police investigators chose to charge Bullock under a city ordinance instead of the state’s criminal code.

Bullock was issued a criminal citation on a state traffic summons. Bullock’s trial on that charge is set for Nov. 16 in Bennettsville.

South Carolina Secretary of State records show Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock was issued this oath of office on March 15, 2021. (Source: South Carolina Secretary of State’s Office)

Following our Final Disrespects series, the South Carolina Supreme Court’s investigative unit, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, sent subpoenas to the Bennettsville Police Department seeking records in Bullock’s prosecution. The unit also sent subpoenas to the Marlboro County Probate Judge’s Office; sources familiar with that office told Barr.

The ODC acts as a “screening and investigating” arm for the South Carolina judicial system for investigations involving misconduct allegations against lawyers and judges in the state. The agency has the authority to prosecute misconduct complaints.

The Supreme Court would not confirm the existence of an investigation in an emailed response to FOX 46 received Oct. 13, “Court rules prohibit us from confirming the existence of disciplinary investigations while they are ongoing, so I will not be able to respond to your request,” South Carolina Judicial Branch Public Information Director, Ginny Jones wrote in the statement.

Court rules prohibit members of the Supreme Court and its employees from confirming such investigations and violating the confidentiality rule could result in a contempt of court charge for those state employees.

“We have received a subpoena for records pertaining to the case and we have fulfilled those particular subpoena needs, wants, and questions regarding this case and that has been forwarded to our city attorney so they can properly go through the channels to ensure that information is given to that state agency,” Bennettsville Police Chief Kevin Miller told FOX 46.

We asked Bullock multiple times for an interview throughout our investigative series, but Bullock would not respond to any of our requests.

Following our investigation into the Bullock weapon charge, Chief Miller asked the State Law Enforcement Division to “review” his department’s prosecution decisions. SLED declined Miller’s request.

Tammy Bullock posted this image to her Facebook account on March 15, 2021 celebrating being sworn into office as the Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge by elected Probate Judge Mark Heath. (Source: Facebook)

“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,” SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby wrote in a response to FOX 46 seeking clarification on the agency’s decision.

Fourth Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers said since his office performs legal work for the county probate office it would not “be proper” for his office to be involved in any investigation of Bullock. Rogers directed the Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office to send a separate criminal investigation into Bullock to SLED in June citing a potential conflict of interest between his office and the probate court.

The separate criminal investigation was presented to SLED in June and it took the agency more than two months to officially open that investigation into Bullock. In that case, Bullock is accused of impersonating a judge, rummaging through a dead man’s home, and participating in the removal of property from the man’s home in January 2021.

That man, Hollis Slade, died on Jan. 23. Security cameras outside Slade’s Joyce Drive home captured Bullock and others searching the man’s home looking for his will. The cameras also captured discussions between Bullock and the group about keeping financial information they found inside the man’s home from his family.

That investigation is still open at SLED.

Chief Miller is the only law enforcer in Marlboro County to agree to an interview regarding Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock.

“This interview was important to me because let’s face it, I could have hid behind a desk, I could have hid behind a phone; that’s very easy to do is to hide. I’m out here in the open. I want people to know this is the truth, these are the facts. The Bennettsville Police Department is 100% acting in good faith with everything we’ve done,” Miller told FOX 46.

Miller submitted the case to the city’s attorney’s office for review and has requested the city attorney prosecute the case during the scheduled Nov. 16 trial, “I will not hide behind a desk or a door or a phone from anyone who has questions about anything pertaining to this case. That is not who I am and that is not what this police department represents,” Miller said.

Bullock will be tried in the Bennettsville municipal court. Her trial date is currently set for Nov. 16, 2021. We will continue to follow the prosecution and update our reporting.

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