Prosecution and defense rest in trial of alleged deadly bingo hall shooter

South Carolina News

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — On the third day of the trial of the alleged Waccamaw Bingo hall shooter Thursday, both the prosecution and the defense rested their cases.

Derrick Rivera faces two murder charges and one charge of armed robbery stemming from a 2019 shooting in the Forestbrook area that killed a father and son.

Bingo hall owners Steve and “Sparky” Johnson were shot and killed by a would-be robber July 26, 2019. The prosecution, led by 15th Circuit Chief Deputy Solicitor Scott Hixson, said Rivera was the shooter while his accomplice, Bradford Britton, drove the getaway car.

William McGuire, attorney for Rivera, said the case against the alleged shooter is based on circumstantial evidence.

Both sides focused on Rivera’s physical cell phone and call records.

The state pointed out the Verizon account under which Rivera had a prepaid phone changed phone numbers five times in the span of 10 days before the shooting. The defense countered that it was not changed after the shooting.

With Horry County Police Department detective Sean Wydra on the stand, Hixson showed jurors call records the state said reveal phone calls and texts from Rivera’s phone to Britton’s before and after the shooting and before Rivera allegedly destroyed his cell phone.

Hixson: {holding parts of a phone} In your experience is that consistent with an effort to make sure no one can see what’s in that?

Wydra: Yessir.

Hixson: Did a pretty good job, huh?

Wydra: Yessir. 

The defense said investigators could not prove it was Rivera in contact with Britton and said police should have gone further to narrow down potential suspects by analyzing all phone calls made from cell towers in Surfside Beach and Myrtle Beach as well as using Google account information.

“If you did Geofence the location in Surfside and you did it in Myrtle Beach you’d say ‘Hey, there’s an account here that’s texting a phone and the same account here texting a phone,'” McGuire said. “You could’ve done that, and it could’ve gone to some unidentified person.”

The gun used in the shooting was never recovered. The two guns used by Steve and “Sparky” Johnson to defend themselves were submitted into evidence, and Jana Weaver, a firearm forensic examiner with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, concluded from two bullets found at the scene that those two guns could not have fired the shots that killed the two men.

“We have a database we can enter those numbers into, and it will generate a possible list of makes and manufacturers that could’ve possibly fired those bullets,” Weaver said.

Weaver said the bullets found at the scene were consistent with either a .38 Special or a .357 Magnum.

Rivera was found by Colleton County sheriff’s deputies in a trailer days after the shooting, and Lt. David Long testified to finding bullets in the trailer where Rivera was found.

Hixson: Did you find anything else that you documented?

Long: 11 .357 Magnum rounds, loose, lying on the floor. 

Rivera’s defense questioned the connection between the bullets found in the trailer and those found at the scene.

McGuire: You don’t know if those bullets are connected to this Myrtle Beach robbery or not, do you?

Long: No, sir. I do not. 

McGuire: No idea?

Long: No, sir. We collected all ammunition we could find in the house. That was the only ammunition inside the dwelling.

McGuire: Sure. Who owns the trailer?

Long: I have no idea.

Both sides will present closing arguments Friday morning before the case is turned over to the 15 jurors.

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