Family of Wilmington Island murder victim reacts to killer’s possible medical reprieve

Crime & Safety

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A lot has changed on Wilmington Island since 1989. For example, there’s a new big sign indicating where you are now and more stores and businesses.

But the parking lot of a local shopping center where the body of Susan Horne Peppers was found back in 1989 is still there. And so is the pain of her brother Kenny Horne when he talked about the loss of his only sister.

“It’s one of those things you don’t think it’s going to happen to the good guys but it does unfortunately and it’s been tough since then you know all these years we’ve missed Susan,” said Mr. Horne from his home in North Carolina.

Mr. Horne is concerned that the man convicted in his sister’s death, her husband, Hoyt Peppers is reportedly very ill and may get a medical reprieve from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Horne doesn’t agree with this at all saying over the years his family has fought to keep Peppers in prison.

“He tortured our sister before he murdered her, and he just shouldn’t get out,” Mr. Horne told News 3 in an interview in 2013.

While Peppers was sentenced to life, sentencing guidelines were somewhat different three decades ago and he has been eligible for parole eight times and denied eight times.

Now, Peppers is 76 and has served time for 30 years. But Horne told News 3 by phone that Peppers “has shown no remorse, he just doesn’t deserve to get out. It doesn’t matter if he has some type of illness or whatever. He needs to stay there for the rest of his life.”

David Lock who worked for the Chatham County District Attorney’s office for years prosecuted the case of Hoyt Peppers. He wrote to the Board of Pardon and Paroles that “the death of Susan Peppers may be the coldest and most calculated case he ever prosecuted.”

Lock said Susan Peppers died of strangulation and suffered physical abuse and a sexual assault and “the cruelty exhibited does not warrant a shortening of Hoyt Peppers’ life sentence.”

The Board of Pardons and Paroles indicated to News 3 via email that while the board is considering a medical reprieve in this case that a “final decision has not been made.”

Officials say a medical reprieve may be granted after the Department of Corrections finds “the offender is entirely incapacitated due to a progressively debilitating terminal illness.”

We’re also told there is a 90-day notification that allows interested parties (like family members and prosecutors) to comment and that input will be considered.

Officials also indicate that medical reprieves are based on the risk to public safety, review of the case facts, time served to-date, the offender’s medical situation, input from law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and the victims’ input/information.

The email also said that “if released on a medical reprieve, the offender goes to a nursing facility/home, long-term chronic, acute care facility/hospital, medical rehab facility or hospice. Offenders are supervised by an officer regardless of their condition. The Parole Board reviews the cases periodically (usually every 6 months) to ensure the prognosis has not changed and the board can return the offender to prison should his/her condition somehow improve.”

Horne told us that a day doesn’t go by when he doesn’t think of his sister and the fact her life was cut short.

“Susan didn’t get a reprieve,” he said.

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