DARLINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – It was supposed to be just another drive past her Aunt Susan’s house on Rogers Road back on June 4. But as Kim Crowley got closer, she noticed two Darlington County medics in her aunt’s yard and two sheriff’s deputies responding.
When Crowley stopped and got out, she heard her aunt telling deputies and medics David Pridgen, her boyfriend and live-in caretaker, had assaulted her.
“I said, ‘Did you put your hands on her,’” ‘No,’ Crowley said, Pridgen responded. “I said, ‘David, did you put your hands on her,’ “‘No, I swear to God,’” was Pridgen’s response. “I told him, I said, ‘If you put your hands on her, you’re going to go to jail, and I’m going to make sure of it.’”
Susan Pridgen was paralyzed on the left side of her body from a major stroke sometime around 2016. Her family said she had brain surgery following the stroke and required full-time care. Crowley said the two deputies separated her and Pridgen and questioned them both at the scene.
“So the male cop took David to the side and was talking to him, the female cop took me to the side, was talking to me. She asked me if he’s violent, has he been violent in the past,” Crowley recalled of her conversation with DCSO Deputy LeeAnn McCullough.
“What was your answer,” Queen City News Chief Investigator Jody Barr asked, “Yes, he has. Even with my mom when she lived there,” Crowley replied. Crowley said medics left with her aunt in the back of the ambulance and took her to a hospital in Hartsville, a small town nearby.
“And they just said that she was with taken to Carolina Pines, that I might want to go because she probably would want to see someone else’s face. So, I went,” Crowley said.
Kim Crowley had no idea then, but in 21 hours, she’d be planning her Aunt Susan’s funeral.
‘THE PATIENT’S BEEN ASSAULTED’
We first received a tip from a law enforcement source that deputies inside the sheriff’s office were questioning the handling of this investigation from the start. The incident report, sources said, was initially labeled ‘Simple Assault,’ but after Susan Perkins’ death, it was changed to ‘Death Investigation.’
The sheriff’s office also blocked the report, meaning no one other than administrative staff could see the report, sources told QCN.
Our review started with obtaining the 911 calls to Perkins’ home. We filed a South Carolina Freedom of Information Act request for all calls to Perkins’ home for the past five years, looking for any patterns in the emergency calls to the home.
The June 4 call was placed by a man who identified himself as David Pridgen.
“My wife just passed out,” Pridgen told the dispatcher. He told dispatchers he was helping Perkins to the bathroom, but she passed out and fell to the floor. Pridgen said he couldn’t lift her back into the wheeled walker. Medics responded 12 minutes after Pridgen’s call for help.
Once inside, medics reported finding Perkins lying in the hallway “barely conscious,” the sheriff’s report shows. Perkins “passed out” when medics put her into her chair, so they then loaded her into the ambulance. Once inside the ambulance, the sheriff’s report shows Perkins gave a different story about what happened before the 911 call to her home.
Medics were at Perkins’ home for 13 minutes before Medic 20 called 911 for law enforcement.
“Why is law enforcement needed,” the dispatcher asked, “Patient stated that she was assaulted,” the first responder told dispatch. A sheriff’s deputy was summoned to the Rogers Road home immediately.
“Perkins told EMS that her boyfriend (David Michael Pridgen) assaulted her. The victim also stated that at some point between last night and today, she fell,” Deputy McCullough wrote in her report. “When speaking to the victim, she stated that last night he slapped her in the living room.”
The deputy noted seeing bruising to Perkins’ head.
“I did observe a big bruise on the upper right of her hand [sic],” McCullough wrote. The rest of the report shows McCullough made a typo when she wrote that sentence, stating later in the report, “Looking at the bruise on Perkin’s head, it doesn’t look like she was slapped. Either she fell and hit her head, or Pridgen hit her with a close [sic] fist.”
“Perkins did state [sic] that she wanted to press charges, Deputy Chilton advised Jackson that a [sic] investigator will be investigated [sic] the case to get evidence if Pridgen assaulted her or not,” Deputy McCullough’s report stated. “Also, while speaking to the victim, it seem [sic] that she was not all competent at the time,” the report stated.
Perkins’ abuse allegation was captured on body camera, deputies confirmed.
The deputy gave Kim Crowley a case number and told Crowley that the sheriff’s investigative unit and a victims advocate would “be in contact,” according to the report and the chain of events Crowley gave QCN of what happened that day.
Crowley left the scene and drove to the hospital to meet her aunt, expecting to see someone from the sheriff’s office.
Kim Crowley said she got to the hospital not long after the ambulance. Dispatch records show the ambulance arriving at the hospital at 1:29 p.m. Nurses were still putting monitors on Perkins and checking her vital when Crowley got there.
“They were hooking her up, checking her out, and she told me exactly what happened; that he was trying to help her to the bathroom, she fell, he fell on top of her, he stood up and hit her. That was Saturday night. Sunday morning, supposedly, he was taking her to the bathroom again, she fell. I don’t know how long she was down. That’s when he called EMS,” Crowley told Barr during an interview in June, a week after Perkins’ death.
Crowley said she wasn’t the only one her aunt told about the abuse allegations she made against David Pridgen. “She told everybody: me, the cops, the medics, everybody at Carolina Pines,” Crowley said, “She said that he hit her. She kept saying it over and over and over and that she wanted to press charges.”
Crowley said she stayed with her aunt for hours. Other family members also showed up to check on Perkins and to whom Perkins repeated the assault claims.
But Crowley said something was missing from the hospital room that day: the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office.
“Nobody ever showed up at the hospital,” Crowley said. “They were called by Carolina Pines and were told that it was domestic abuse, that they needed to come. Nobody showed up,” Crowley said during our June interview.
“She couldn’t do anything else. She was asking for help, and she didn’t get it.”
“What do you think she was thinking,” Barr asked Crowley, “I think she thought she was gonna get help this time, but she didn’t get it. Because nobody showed up,” she replied.
The sheriff’s office incident report and supplemental notes don’t show any notes documenting calls from either Crowley or hospital staff. The supplemental notes also do not show that a deputy went to the hospital to photograph Perkins’ injuries or to take her statement about the assault allegations on June 4.
After running out of patience, Crowley said she decided to use her cell phone to document the injuries to her aunt’s face and head herself.
“Why did you take those photographs,” Barr asked Crowley, “It needed to be documented. Because the cops didn’t show up to do it.” “They were called by Carolina Pines and were told that it was domestic abuse, that they needed to come. Nobody showed up.”
“I called them from Carolina Pines and told them that the doctors have said this is domestic abuse, and I need the officer to come. And the police officer I talked to said that an investigator will get in touch with me and gave me a case number, and that was it. Didn’t hear anything else,” Crowley said.
In the early morning hours of June 5, medics rushed Perkins to the McLeod hospital in nearby Florence, SC. Staff put Perkins on a life support system. The coroner’s report shows Perkins died at 10 a.m. on June 5. The DCSO case file shows deputies didn’t find out about her death until Kim Crowley called the sheriff’s office.
“I had to call the sheriff’s department the next day to let them know that she passed away. That’s when I talked to an investigator,” Crowley said. Crowley said she never saw a deputy the entire time she was with her aunt at the hospital.
“I’m upset. They should have done their job. They should have came to the hospital and took her statement,” Crowley told QCN. “If she’s willing to give a statement, wanting to give a statement, what was stopping the sheriff’s office taking it,” Barr asked.
“Nobody showed up. If they just came and got her statement, we could have got justice for her even though she’s deceased. We could have gotten justice for her,” Crowley responded.
We filed a SCFOIA request with the sheriff’s office for the case file. The only evidence we could find in the documents were six photographs of Perkins’ head and face showing one of the bruises to her head. The document shows June 5, 2023, as the date the photographs were taken, which was three and a half hours after Susan Perkins died.
Internal reports show the sheriff’s office passed the assault case off to Lt. Rick Devours, who oversees the sheriff’s Homicide Task Force. The Darlington County Coroner’s Office also emailed a death notification to the sheriff’s office the day Perkins died, telling the sheriff Perkins’ hospital chart “documents her boyfriend assaulted her,” Deputy Coroner Jennifer Hardee wrote in her report.
Sheriff James Hudson forwarded the coroner’s email to the Homicide Task Force that day. Internal sheriff’s office records show Devours assigned Investigator Bradley Tarte to the case.
Crowley said she first met with Tarte after Perkins’ death, “He told me in the first meeting that he was going to be arrested for domestic abuse, and I asked him about since she was paralyzed and she couldn’t defend herself, he was supposed to be her caregiver; if there’s going to be additional charges because of that,” Crowley recalled of her conversation with the investigator. “He said if he seen that in any of the medical reports, that yes, more charges will be filed on him.’”
Because of questions surrounding Perkins’ death, the coroner ordered an autopsy on Perkins’ body. A Charleston pathologist performed the autopsy on Sept. 7. Investigator Tarte wrote in his report that he attended the autopsy and the pathologist’s preliminary finding of the cause of death was blood clots in Perkins’ lungs.
Despite the final autopsy report not being finalized until July 13, Investigator Tarte closed the death investigation on June 7. “However, the domestic violence investigation is still active,” Tarte wrote in a June 8, 2023, report supplemental.
Crowley later found out something deputies didn’t do in the beginning would turn out to be the one thing the sheriff’s office needed to ensure it had all the facts in the case.
‘THEY DONE THEIR JOB’
Aside from the public records requests, we asked Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson multiple times to schedule an interview with us. We wanted to find out from the sheriff precisely what his office did from the time EMS left with Susan Perkins until her death 21 hours later.
Hudson refused to schedule an interview with us or explain why he wouldn’t talk about his office’s actions.
Instead of responding, Hudson had the Darlington County Attorney’s Office, led by former SC House Speaker Jay Lucas, deny our final interview request. “Sheriff Hudson respectfully declines your interview request,” Adam Gainey wrote in an August 30, 2023, letter to QCN.
The S.C. Bar’s Member Directory shows Gainey was admitted to the state bar 10 months ago and is a member of Lucas’ law firm in Hartsville.
Gainey also billed QCN for the public records in the case, charging $29.00 for electronic records contained in the sheriff’s office file. The SCFOIA doesn’t allow governmental entities to charge for electronic records; however, the sheriff’s office charged for copies instead of allowing QCN to inspect the original records in this case.
The state’s open records law also allows for a fee exemption for information sought in the public interest, but the sheriff’s office and Lucan’s firm deemed these records weren’t in the public interest and charged to access the public documents.
Hudson also ignored attempts by QCN to have him clarify multiple points we filed with him regarding specifics of the actions of his deputies in the hours following Perkins’ assault allegations. The sheriff and Lucas’ office also denied us access to the body camera recordings showing Perkins’ allegations and her state of mind at the time.
SC lawmakers allowed law enforcement to keep body camera recordings secret by exempting those recordings from the state’s public records law. However, under Sec. 23-1-240(G)(3), “A law enforcement agency, the State Law Enforcement Division, the Attorney General, and a circuit solicitor may release data recorded by a body-worn camera at its discretion.”
Hudson and Lucas’s office would not explain why they decided to keep this video from the public when asked in writing by Barr. Perkins’ family also wanted access to this recording, according to Kim Crowley.
On Sept. 7, we found Sheriff Hudson in the sheriff’s office parking lot to question him about the Susan Perkins investigation. Here’s the transcript from this encounter:
BARR: “Good morning.”
SHERIFF: “How are you?”
BARR: “Good, how are you doing?”
BARR: “Can we talk to you for a few minutes before you head in about –”
SHERIFF: “No, sir.”
BARR: “You don’t want to talk anything about it?”
SHERIFF: “No, sir.”
BARR: “What did your investigators do to investigate the allegations of assault in the Susan Perkins case the 24 hours before she died?”
SHERIFF: “They done their job.”
BARR: “They did their job?”
SHERIFF: “Yes, sir.” JB: “Do you have evidence of an investigation happening?”
SHERIFF: “They done their job, sir. That’s all I can tell you.”
BARR: “Well, this family says you guys never showed up.”
SHERIFF: “The family hasn’t contacted us.”
BARR: “Well, your investigator told the family that they couldn’t investigate this or prosecute this case because no statement was given, and the victim was dead. And you’re satisfied with that?”
SHERIFF: “The case is closed; thank you so much.”
The sheriff walked into the side door of the sheriff’s office and closed it. Within minutes of our encounter with the sheriff, Investigator Tarte called Kim Crowley.
“Kind of a strange thing, but this morning, we had a reporter that showed up at the sheriff’s office and spoke to the sheriff. Jody Barr,” Tarte said in the recorded call with Crowley. “I’m just going off of what the sheriff was telling me and everything, but he (Barr) gave the indication that y’all weren’t exactly happy with the outcome of the case.”
Tarte told Crowley he and several other deputies reviewed the evidence they had – and didn’t have – and determined they couldn’t file charges of domestic abuse against Pridgen even though investigators believed Susan Perkins’ allegations.
“We went through it with a fine-tooth comb. And if I was able to charge him, I absolutely would have. I promise you that because I 100% believe that he was abusive towards her,” Tarte told Crowley in the Sept. 7 call.
“It’s not what you know; it’s what you can prove in court. So, I can know he was doing it, but I have to have the evidence to back that up,” Tarte said. “When I was handed the case, she was already deceased. So, I didn’t have – all I had was a video recording of her saying that he assaulted me.”
Tarte indicated he needed more information from Perkins, and since she was dead when he got the case file, that is evidence he will never get.
“I went to the autopsy and I explained to the pathologist what I was looking for and if there was any kind of indication that an assault would have caused her death…She (pathologist) said that there was no indication that an assault would have caused her death, that these blood clots were there and it was, unfortunately, just a matter of time, and it just happened to be that time,” Tarte told Perkins’ next-of-kin.
The pathologist’s report contains a section detailing the bruising to Perkins’ head and face, including a bruise to her knee. However, Dr. Angelina Phillips wrote the manner of death “best be deemed natural” because of the blood clots she found in Perkins’ lungs.
We took the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office case file to Columbia attorney Dayne Phillips, who has defended countless domestic violence cases in the past decade. Phillips looked at the same documents we reviewed — documents provided to us by the sheriff’s office.
“Questions, a lot of questions that I would have as a defense attorney if this case was charged, kind of lead in the same vein as to the investigation – or the failure to investigate,” Phillips said after looking over the incident report and the investigators’ supplemental notes.
“When we’re looking at what law enforcement has done in the case, you have a statement provided, an accusation, an allegation of domestic violence, an assault, and with that, there had been no additional follow-up prior to the decedent passing away in the hospital,” Phillips noted.
Although Susan Perkins’ family believed deputies should have responded immediately to the hospital to interview Perkins, the attorney told QCN the victim had already given a statement to law enforcement on the body camera recordings.
Typically, hearsay evidence is barred from courtrooms in South Carolina because testimony regarding facts of a case “must come from a person who has seen, heard, tasted, or smelled the evidence,” according to a 1966 report from the SC Attorney General’s Office.
Under “Dying Declaration” case law, a criminal allegation made on a body camera recording could be admitted in a jury trial if a “dying person has accused someone of a crime,” according to a Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs summary of the state’s dying declaration doctrine.
“Before this evidence can be submitted to the court, three requirements must be met: the statement must be related to the case, the person making the statement must be dying and later dead, the dying person must believe he is dying,” according to the DOJ article.
“Now people would say, look, if someone had made a statement and they pass away, that’s not admissible. In general, that would be true because the defense attorney is not able to cross-examine them and the confrontation of witnesses. But there’s an exception to that, and we call that the dying declaration exception,” Phillips explained.
“If someone is actually in the process of dying, where they believe that they are dying, it can even be from their subjective belief, given the circumstances, the totality of the circumstances, then that statement can be admitted at trial. And, so, what we have here is a potential dying declaration. So, the first question I’d want to know is, did the investigator reach out to the solicitor’s office and ask for an opinion on that,” Phillips asked.
“If that was not done, that would be very troubling. I think that would be tragic on behalf of that, certainly the decedent in her family,” Phillips told Barr.
We confirmed with the Fourth Circuit Solicitor’s Office that no one from the sheriff’s office ever contacted their office for an opinion on the Perkins case. Solicitor Will Rogers didn’t know about the case until we contacted his office on July 22 by filing a SCFOIA request for communications between the DCSO and the solicitor’s office.
Rogers confirmed no communications existed, and there were no phone calls from the sheriff’s office seeking counsel on whether the body camera recording could be used.
Phillips said a deputy would likely not know the dying declaration legal doctrine, which he argued means a solicitor’s review of the Perkins case file was needed, “Now, police officers are not – they’re trained in the law, but they are not lawyers. And so, it is not uncommon for a law enforcement officer to call the local prosecutor’s office, the Solicitor’s Office, and ask for legal advice, some help on the case to make determinations because ultimately, that investigator – an officer or the responding officer at the time – has to make a determination as to basically probable cause, does it exist to issue an arrest warrant?”
“You could have preserved that evidence,” Phillips said, “The preservation of additional statements would be great, would be key in building a better case, but we have a statement, according to the incident report. A statement was made. So, I don’t – you can even take that back – I mean, that certainly would build a stronger case, a much stronger case, but having a statement made that allegation, that complaint has been thrown out there, has been issued. It’s an investigator’s duty to fully investigate that and part of that would be what I just said is that reaching out to the solicitor’s office about whether that statement would be considered a dying declaration.”
As part of his review of the case, Phillips asked to see the body camera recording. We couldn’t provide that because the sheriff and county attorney refused to release it. Phillips believes the solicitor’s office should come in and review the case to determine whether Perkins’ body camera statement could be admitted as a dying declaration, “Law enforcement is not all the way hamstrung, just because one investigator has determined that they believe probable cause didn’t exist, doesn’t mean that an agency couldn’t reevaluate the case.”
“If one investigator didn’t look at the full picture, you always have the ability to have an agency reevaluate the evidence to seek the legal advice and opinions of the local Solicitor’s Office and to then make another determination,” Phillips said.
PRIDGEN: ‘No idea’ why she’d accuse him
A green funeral home tent provided shade to Susan Perkins’ family as they gathered around her freshly dug grave on June 9, 2023. Perkins was buried in a family graveyard in Lamar, SC.
One person was missing: David Pridgen.
Kim Crowley said Perkins’ family asked Pridgen not to show up at the funeral home or the gravesite. Pridgen complied. At the time, Pridgen was listed as “Subject No. 1” in the death investigation, and domestic violence investigation deputies opened following the June 4 call to 911.
Deputies went to her home the day Perkins died and picked Pridgen up to take him to the sheriff’s office for an interview. The sheriff’s report shows Pridgen signed a form, waiving his right to remain silent, and participated in an interview with two investigators: Sgt. Richardson and Investigator James.
We asked Sheriff James Huson whether that interview was recorded, but Hudson – through the county attorney’s office – refused to answer. Hudson did not turn over any recordings from that interview to us under the SCFOIA request we filed seeking that recording.
Investigators filed a report following the Pridgen interview, highlighting what appears to be discrepancies in his statement of what he did after he said Perkins “passed out.”
“(D. Pridgen) stated that he then “drug” her and changed his wording to he then “helped” her to the living room and put her in her chair and that she passed out again,” Corporal Dawn Hutchinson wrote in a June 8 supplemental report. “Pridgen stated that he called 911 in the morning hours; however, it was verified that the call for service came in at 1235hours, where a male stated that his “wife” just passed out. (D. Pridgen) stated that 911 had been called a few times over the weekend for his “wife” but it was confirmed that the only call placed for Emergency Medical Services was on 06/04/2023.”
The report shows Pridgen told investigators he and Perkins argued when they drank but denied ever physically assaulting her.
A recording of the interview would allow the public to verify Pridgen’s statements, but the sheriff’s office would not turn any recording over – if a recording exists. Deputies also described Pridgen as uncaring about the death of his girlfriend just a day after her death.
“During the interview with (D. Pridgen), he did not appear to be distraught or upset over the death of (Susan). The main concern of his, [sic] was getting home so that he could smoke a cigarette and drink beer,” Corporal Hutchinson wrote.
Deputies took Pridgen back to Perkins’ home following the interview. That’s where investigators served him with a search warrant for the home. The search warrant sought anything that could render evidence in the case, including blood, clothes, and even the seizure of any cell phone belonging to the couple.
Deputies filed a warrant return showing they collected only photographs inside and outside of Perkins’ home, including her Tracphone.
Deputies got the search warrant the day of Perkins’ death – one day after her initial assault allegations. However, the sheriff’s incident report shows investigators never went into Perkins’ cell phone to look for potential evidence.
READ: The Darlington County Sheriff’s Office report we obtained through the SC Freedom of Information Act.
“The search warrant on Ms. Perkins’ cellphone was returned as non-executed due to the death investigation being closed. The cellphone was released to Ms. Perkins’ niece (name redacted), who is the next of kin,” Investigator Tarte wrote in a June 8, 2023, entry to the report.
We tried to locate Pridgen by phone, email, and with a note left at his home in the weeks before this report was published. Pridgen, who does not have a phone, agreed to interview with QCN when we found him at his home on Sept. 8.
“She did tell investigators or told deputies on body camera that you assaulted her,” Barr said to Pridgen, “No, I didn’t,” Pridgen replied.
“Why would she say that,” Barr asked. “Well, I mean, we’ve had arguments and everything. And, you know, like every other couple and everything. They have arguments, just stuff like that. But I’ve never hit her, never assaulted her, or anything,” Pridgen told QCN.
Pridgen repeated the same story he told investigators, even reenacting how he said Perkins fell out of her chair as he pushed her to the bathroom. He also pointedly denied telling investigators that he “drug” Perkins to her chair after she fell to the floor on June 4.
Here’s the transcript of the portion of our exchange with Pridgen about whether he moved Perkins from the floor:
BARR: “What did you do after she fell? I heard you on 911 saying that you were trying to get her up.”
PRIDGEN: “I was trying to get her up, but I couldn’t because she’s so dead weight, and I tried to get her back in, but I couldn’t. So, I left her there, came and went and got the phone and called 911 and told them what was going on?”
BARR: “Did you ever move her from the floor?”
PRIDGEN: “No, I didn’t.”
BARR: “Can I see the incident report? It says in here—”
PRIDGEN: “Now, I tried to pick her up, but me trying to move her and get back in here, no I didn’t.”
BARR: “I just want to read this to you…stated that you then drug her and changed his wording to he then helped her to the living room and put her in her chair and that she passed out again…”
PRIDGEN: “Nah ah…no.”
BARR: “So that appears to show some conflicting information.”
PRIDGEN: “It is – some of that is not true. Because I did not – the paramedics, when they came in, they found her laying right there.”
BARR: “So the part about you dragging her…”
PRIDGEN: “No, I did not drag her because I couldn’t drag her in here, in the living room.”
BARR: “Why would law enforcement put that in a written report?”
PRIDGEN: “I have no idea.”
Pridgen also said investigators’ description of him as careless toward his girlfriend’s death wasn’t true. Pridgen read the incident report with the investigator’s description during our interview with him, “During the interview with David Pridgen he did not appear to be distraught or upset over the death of Susan. The main concern of his was getting home so that he could smoke a cigarette and drink beer,” Pridgen read. “Do you agree with that,” Barr asked.
“No, no,” Pridgen said, explaining that he loved Susan Perkins and would never hit her.
“Like I said, we had our arguments, but it was when we was drinking, and we drank a lot,” Pridgen told Barr. “You think you could have had an argument that night, and you just don’t remember hitting her,” Barr asked, “I don’t get that drunk,” Pridgen responded.
“I wonder why she would say that; that’s what we’re trying to settle here,” Barr asked, “I don’t know. I really don’t, and if I had any kind of saying, but I don’t. I really don’t. I don’t know why she would say anything like that. I mean, like I said, we’ve had arguments, but other than that, I’ve never put my hand on her.”
As part of our news investigation, we asked Darlington County 911 for all calls for service to the Perkins home since 2018. County communications provided records showing 51 calls to the home in the past five years – 24 EMS calls and 27 calls to law enforcement.
Dispatch records also log whether a report was filed. In the eight domestic disturbance calls, dispatch records show only a single incident report filed. We asked Sheriff James Hudson to confirm how many of those eight domestic calls resulted in an incident report.
Hudson never responded to our inquiry or explained why deputies didn’t document the domestic calls.
“Oh, yeah, we’ve had domestic calls and everything. She would call the law, or I would call up because we were arguing, you know, but other than that, you know, physically, no, no physical between us two,” Pridgen said during our Sept. 8 interview at Perkins’ home.
We asked Pridgen about Investigator Tarte’s belief that he “abused” Perkins. Pridgen, again, denied doing anything to his long-time girlfriend. Here’s the transcript of that exchange:
BARR: “If I were to tell you that law enforcement said that they believe you abused her, what would you say to Darlington County Sheriff’s Office about that?”
PRIDGEN: “I’ll have to speak with them and do another interview. Other than that, I just, I don’t know what to say because it’s not true.”
BARR: “So if an investigator told Ms. Perkins’ family that they believed you abused her, what would you say to that investigator?”
PRIDGEN: “That’s just not true.”
BARR: “What do you think about what’s written in this report? And what’s been said about you and…”
PRIDGEN: “A lot of it, I don’t believe, but I’m not gonna say nothing to discriminate me because with her death and everything. I’m sorry that it happened, and I miss her. And if I could say anything to the family that the problems we had, I know they ain’t going to believe it, but very sorry and everything. But like I said, I’ve never hit Susan, I would never want to hit Susan.”
BARR: “And have you ever?”
The Darlington County Sheriff’s Office considers the death investigation and the domestic violence case closed. Sheriff James Hudson confirmed that in our Sept. 7 encounter with him outside his office.
However, we contacted the Fourth Circuit Solicitor’s Office on Sept. 13 and spoke with Solicitor Will Rogers. Rogers is the elected prosecutor for Darlington, Dillon, Chesterfield, and Marlboro Counties.
Rogers initially said his office would review any case the sheriff’s office wanted them to review, noting that every member of the sheriff’s office in each of his four counties has access to the cell phones of each prosecutor in his circuit. Rogers said in the call that his review would happen if the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office asked to have the case reviewed.
“All a solicitor can do is look at it from a prosecutorial standpoint,” Rogers said in the call with QCN. “Our ultimate goal is to do what’s right.”
Rogers said he’d review the documents in the case file, then consult with the sheriff’s office. The solicitor’s review would be limited to whether charges could be filed in the domestic violence case. Rogers’ review would not deal with the sheriff’s office’s handling of the case in the 21 hours after the 911 call.
Crowley knows nothing we found here will bring Susan Perkins back. The family has one reason for going public: “To make sure things are taken care of that day, right then. Don’t wait,” Crowley said in the June interview with QCN.
“The sheriff’s office needs to do a better job. Actions should have been taken that day, not the next day or the next day. That day,” Crowley said. “What message do you think they sent Susan Perkins in her final hours,” Barr asked.
“You don’t matter, you don’t matter,” Crowley replied.
“What would you tell the sheriff if he was sitting here today,” Barr asked Crowley, “Get your s–t together.”
The solicitor said once he finishes reviewing the files, he’ll consult with the sheriff’s office and would then make a final determination about whether the legalities surrounding the case are settled. Rogers said his office could finish that process sometime this week.