Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis said investigators spent a lot of time working on a 1981 cold case which involved two teen girls who were kidnapped, shot and left for dead.
“There was a lot of work done on this investigation,” said Sheriff Duane Lewis.
But it was worth it to Lewis, who had a special connection to the case. The victims Laura Patteson and Sandra Snider were his classmates at Goose Creek High School. In another twist, Lewis said he knew the family of the man now charged in the case 37 years later.
“You got to think about Goose Creek back in 1981. It was a different place,” Lewis said in a Wednesday news conference. “We knew everybody. I went to school with these girls and we were all touched by it and it affected all of us. It never left me.”
Patteson and Snider were sitting in a car belonging to Snider’s mother at a then-popular location for teens which is known today as St. James Estates. As they were talking, they said a man approached their vehicle with a gun and ordered them out of the car. Patteson and Snider refused.
“I was at that very location with a bunch of my friends three days before this incident occurred,” Lewis said. “That’s why this case has always stuck with me.”
Lewis said the man pistol-whipped one of the girls before shooting them both several times at point-blank range. He stuffed them into the trunk and drove to a dirt road, where he left the vehicle. What the man did not know was that Snider was able to get out of the unlatched trunk and crawl to the main road for help, despite her wounds.
“Their innocence was lost that day,” Lewis said.
Snider and Patteson attended the news conference announcing an arrest in the case this week. The women said they played dead so the man would leave.
Based on forensic evidence gathered at the scene and preserved for nearly four decades, deputies said they were able to use additional information to identify a suspect and make an arrest.
62-year-old Bruce Kirkpatrick, who was 25 years old at the time, was arrested in Charleston County by State Law Enforcement Division agents and officers with the offices’ cold case team.
Kirkpatrick was ordered held without bond on two counts of kidnapping, two counts of assault and battery with intent to kill and one count of armed robbery. He is a tier-3 registered sex offender.
“Kirkpatrick has an extensive criminal record. He’s spent most of his life in the Department of Corrections,” Lewis said, noting it was a “miracle” that both victims survived. “I’m just happy that we were able to make this arrest and get this guy off the street.”
“We’re thankful to be alive, too,” Snider said. “We are here because of God. He did take care of us that day.”
“The trunk refused to close,” Patteson said. “No matter how much he tried, the trunk would not close. And I reached up and held it down so he would think it was closed.”
Lewis would not specify what forensic evidence led investigators to arrest Kirkpatrick, but said it was sufficient and that details will come out in court.
“We found additional evidence that we didn’t know we had at some point during the investigation and just kept working on it,” he said. “These detectives have been working this case for almost a year.”
Lewis said this case is an example to everyone in law enforcement, crime victims, and suspects, that the file is never closed on a cold case.
“It really illustrates that there’s always something that can be done and I preach that,” he said. “We have the availability of the greatest and newest technology today in the crime-fighting field.”