A Newberry County man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole after he pleaded guilty to killing two military service members who tried to disarm him during a fight outside a Chapin bar.
27-year-old Joseph Mills pleaded guilty Thursday to murdering 40-year-old SSG. Charles Judge Jr. and 29-year-old Sgt. Jonathan Prins. Prosecutors said Mills killed the two men as they tried to stop Mills from fighting his girlfriend.
Lexington County Sheriff’s Department warrants said Mills went to the Frayed Knot bar in July 2016 looking for his girlfriend. Witnesses said Mills tackled the woman outside the bar, then fired several gunshots into the air after other patrons pushed him off her. Judge and Prins had been in a boat docked nearby and ran towards the gunshots.
Investigators said the two men tried to break up the incident peacefully and disarm Mills, but he instead shot both of them. Prins died at the scene, while Judge passed on the way to a hospital.
Mills told a bond judge he had been chasing the woman because she stole drugs.
Judge Knox McMahon approved the guilty plea and negotiated sentence which gave Mills 40 years without parole.
National Guard officials said Judge was an engineer instructor with the 218th Regiment Leadership at McCrady Training Center near Eastover. He was also the founder of Upstate Stand Down, a nonprofit which helps homeless and at-risk veterans. He was a resident of the Moore community in Spartanburg County. Prins was stationed at Fort Jackson Army training base outside Columbia. Both men were veterans of the Iraq War, while Prins also served in Afghanistan.