Kingstree victims’ family wants answers after murder charges vanish

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 2:26 PM EDT|Updated: May. 9, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT
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KINGSTREE, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - The family of two sisters killed in their tiny South Carolina town in 2010 wants to know why the man who confessed to their slayings has suddenly shown back up in the community.

Attorney Lori Murray, who represents the relatives of Naomi Johnson, 65; and Thelma Haddock, 73, spoke to reporters Monday outside the Williamsburg County Courthouse in Kingstree. Murray said the man accused in the killings, Joseph Jermaine Brand, was reportedly seen about 20 minutes earlier just a few blocks away from the courthouse.

“The problem this family has is they have no answers,” Murray said.

Joseph Brand was charged with murder in the 2010 killings but was found to be incompetent to...
Joseph Brand was charged with murder in the 2010 killings but was found to be incompetent to stand trial. The victims' family says charges against him were dismissed and expunged.(Williamsburg County Sheriff's Office)

Johnson and Haddock died in what investigators described as an execution-style shooting twelve years ago.

Prosecutors said Brand confessed to the double shooting and was arrested and charged in 2010. But he was deemed incompetent to stand trial and sent to a state hospital to get treatment. If his mental condition improved, he was supposed to return to jail and await trial.

But Murray says that didn’t happen. On top of that, she alleged that charges against him were dismissed and the record of the charges was apparently expunged since the charges no longer show up in the public index. The family, she says, was never notified of his release.

“All I can think about is, you know, Mother’s Day yesterday, we were celebrating our mothers,” Murray said. “And they have to worry about the man who killed their mother walking around town potentially being a danger to the community and not having done a day in jail again for the things that he did and for the deaths of their parents, for their mothers.”

She said that back in November, a judge issued an order stating that Brand was not competent to stand trial and that he was not likely to become competent. But, she claimed the day before that order came out, Third Circuit Solicitor Ernest Finney III dropped the charges against Brand.

“So they dismissed all the charges prior to the competency order even being put in the record,” Murray said. “They were so eager to get rid of the charges, to get rid of and get them off their books. The order that was signed said that Mr. Branch will be hospitalized with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, that the solicitor had 14 days to initiate judicial proceedings in the probate court, and if the competency was restored, the Department of Mental Health had 10 days to notify the solicitor so that these charges could be brought back. But again, the charges were dismissed.”

The family said they learned Brand showed up on free in Kingstree a few months ago.

“Mr. Branch is walking around free as a jaybird,” Murray said. “[The family] is entitled to answers as to how that happened.”

Finney agreed to directly present the case to the grand jury during the week of May 26.

Copyright 2022 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.