Man arrested in murder of Heath Springs man

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Thirteenth violent death of year

  Christopher Sardelli
Hours after a Heath Springs man was found shot to death this weekend, another man was charged in his murder, the 13th violent death in Lancaster County this year.
Melvin Sowell Jr., 24, 108 Harris St., Heath Springs, was charged Sunday, Dec. 9, with murder in connection with the death of 25-year-old Michael Lamar Catoe, also of Heath Springs, according to a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office press release.
Deputy Coroner Tony Broome said Catoe was shot in his upper chest area and ultimately died from his injuries. Catoe was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We found out his cause of death and now have turned the evidence over to law enforcement,” Broome said.
The investigation began Saturday at about 5 p.m. when Catoe was found dead on the side of Beecher Horton Road in Heath Springs. A passerby saw Catoe’s body and called the sheriff’s office, the release said.
Investigators learned that Catoe was shot during an altercation on Arbor Drive in Kershaw. It was unknown Tuesday who was involved in the altercation.  After the shooting, Sowell dumped Catoe’s body on Beecher Horton Road, the release said.  
Sowell remained jailed Monday at the Lancaster County Detention Center, where he awaited a bond hearing. The case is still under investigation and no motive has been determined.  
“Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. Catoe,” said Sheriff Barry Faile. “I am thankful that we were able to arrest the suspect so quickly.  Unfortunately, once again we see the impact that repeat offenders have on our society. Neither Catoe nor Sowell are strangers to the criminal justice system.”  
Sowell turned himself in to deputies Nov. 12 on an outstanding charge of third-degree assault by mob, but was released the same day on a $10,000 surety bond, according to the S.C. Judicial Department website.
In that case, deputies responded Nov. 10 to an assault at a Kershaw apartment complex along Kershaw Country Club Road.
The victim, a 46-year-old woman, told deputies that Sowell bumped her with his car and then tried to throw a beer bottle at her. Sowell and another man, Demetric Shavon Moore, 19, 638 Kershaw Country Club Road, then chased her into a stairwell where she fell and scraped her arm, a sheriff’s office incident report said.
Two witnesses stopped the men from hitting the woman and the men drove away from the scene, the report said.
The victim also reported that the two men shot at her feet in a Kershaw nightclub a month earlier, on Oct. 10.
Deputies reviewed surveillance video from the apartment complex and saw Sowell and Moore chasing the victim, the report said.
Moore was arrested Sunday on a charge of third-degree assault by mob, the report said.
Sowell is also listed as a defendant for five other pending charges, dating back to 2006 in the Sixth Judicial Circuit, which covers Lancaster County, per judicial records.
Those charges include drug possession in both December 2006 and May 2007, as well as trafficking cocaine, drug trafficking and possession with intent to distribute drugs, all in October 2009.
Anyone with information about the murder is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (803) 283-4136 or contact Crimestoppers at 1-888-Crime SC (1-888-274-6372). You can also e-mail or text your anonymous tip to: www.midlandscrimestoppers.com.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli
at (803) 416-8416