Death penalty trial set to begin in July

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By John Davis

PAGELAND - Gary Miles is expected to go on trial for his life in July. He's accused in the drowning death of a hitchhiker whose body was found in Lancaster County in 2006.

Judge Steven John has reserved the weeks of July 7 or July 14 as potential dates for a Chesterfield County jury to hear the case.

Miles is charged with murder of Mike Dennis Clanton, 43. He was reportedly beaten after being offered a ride and drowned in a pond off S.C. 207. His body was dumped near Heath Springs.

Clanton was an epileptic and primarily lived with his parents but was staying with his daughter in Jefferson.

Miles, of 3356 S.C. 9, Pageland, entered a not-guilty plea during an Oct. 10, 2007, hearing in which the 4th Circuit Solicitor's Office officially notified him of its intent to seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys began organizing for the upcoming trial at a hearing at the Chesterfield County Courthouse on Thursday.

Defense attorney Steve Wallace and Heath Ruffner asked for a series of deadlines for the solicitor's office to deliver them evidence and related paperwork, including criminal records and statements.

Miles' defense team also argued to have Miles, who is being held without bond, be incarcerated in Chesterfield County facilities for convenience and logistics.

"(But Miles) has tried to escape twice and the jail custodian's thoughts on that is that he's going to do more damage to the jail and they don't have the manpower to deal with him," argued Assistant 4th Circuit Solicitor J.R. Joyner.

Steven sided with the state, though he said Miles should be held in Chesterfield County leading into and during his trial.

Miles was relocated to a holding facility in Lee County after his second attempt to escape the Chesterfield County Detention Center, authorities say.

At trial, jurors will decide whether Miles is guilty of the Clanton's murder.

If jurors convict Miles of murder, they would enter a second phase to determine what penalty to impose.

Also facing charges in the case are Brian Faulk, 34, of 33423 S.C. 9, Pageland, and Angela Baker, 29, of 33447 S.C. 9, Pageland.

Both are charged with accessory after the fact of murder in the case.

Clanton's body was discovered Sept. 22, 2006, six days after his family reported him missing.

He was last seen leaving a Pageland convenience store in a 1988 Oldsmobile with Miles and Faulk.

Deputies allege Baker aided the two men in disposing of Clanton's body after he died.

The judge barred attorneys and investigators involved with the defense or prosecution from talking with the press about the case at last week's hearing.