Final Disrespects: SC Supreme Court launches investigation into Marlboro County deputy probate judge

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Within hours of our ‘Final Disrespects’ investigation into a weapons charge against a Marlboro County judge, the South Carolina Supreme Court’s investigative unit issued a subpoena to the Bennettsville Police Department.

The subpoena sought information in the criminal prosecution of Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock. BPD Chief Kevin Miller said the subpoenas came from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, or ODC, in Columbia.

The ODC acts as a “screening and investigating” arm for the South Carolina judicial system for investigations involving misconduct allegations against lawyers and judges in the state. The agency has the authority to prosecute misconduct complaints.

Bennettsville Police Chief Kevin Miller is the only law enforcer in Marlboro County to agree to an interview during our months-long Final Disrespects investigation. (WJZY Photo/Jody Batt)

The Supreme Court would not confirm the existence of an investigation in an emailed response to FOX 46 received Oct. 13, “Court rules prohibit us from confirming the existence of disciplinary investigations while they are ongoing, so I will not be able to respond to your request,” South Carolina Judicial Branch Public Information Director, Ginny Jones wrote in the statement.

Court rules prohibit members of the Supreme Court and its employees from confirming such investigations and violating the confidentiality rule could result in a contempt of court charge for those state employees.

“We have received a subpoena for records pertaining to the case and we have fulfilled those particular subpoena needs, wants, and questions regarding this case and that has been forwarded to our city attorney so they can properly go through the channels to ensure that information is given to that state agency,” Bennettsville Police Chief Kevin Miller told FOX 46.

Miller’s department is facing a firestorm of negative social media comments, phone calls and email after our investigation last week into how the Bennettsville Police Department handled a pointing and presenting a firearm charge against Bullock.

BPD charged Bullock under the city’s pointing and presenting ordinance and not the state’s criminal code. The city’s ordinance is a misdemeanor charge. Had the city issued an arrest warrant and charged Bullock under the state criminal code, the judge would have faced a felony-level charge and the potential of a five-year sentence, if convicted.

“At the time, the decision was made based on the evidence that we had,” Miller told FOX 46 Chief Investigator Jody Barr. “There are some cases out there that have an abundance of evidence, so to speak, would be a slam dunk case or whatever. And I’m not—my job is, once again, to protect the integrity of this case so there’s not a lot of detail I can go into, but I can tell you the decision that was made at that time was the best decision based on what we had.”

Miller said he believed the case was a “she said, she said,” and acknowledged convincing a six-person municipal court jury may be a challenge for his department. Miller also lamented the lack of any video evidence and the fact the victim waited two days to report the incident to police as other challenges.

When asked if BPD did Bullock any favors by charging her with a misdemeanor city ordinance violation, “Absolutely not,” Miller said.

The department does have at least one witness in the case.

The Bennettsville Police Department issued Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock this summons written on a Uniform Traffic Ticket charging the deputy probate judge with a misdemeanor pointing and presenting a firearm during an argument in February 2021. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

“They were like, ‘Did you see her with the gun,’ and I was like, ‘Yes. I seen her with it, I seen—I didn’t see everything that happened, but I seen where my mom fell and was on the ground and Tammy had that gun to her face,” Breana Troutman told Barr.

Troutman was inside a bedroom in the home when she said her mother, Shanda Nash, and Bullock got into an argument in February. Bullock and Nash were roommates and shared the rent and expenses at the Palmetto Street home in Bennettsville.

“When I looked out the door, I seen my mom on the floor with her hand like this and Tammy was like this and she was like, ‘I’ll f—ing shoot you, Shanda.’ And I got up and I went and got my mom and I picked her up and I look at Tammy like, ‘What’s wrong with you,’” Troutman said.

Troutman has since moved to Colorado and returned home to Bennettsville this week. She was not in town when we initially interviewed her mother in our Final Disrespects investigation in August.

Troutman said she’s staying in town through mid-November to testify at Bullock’s trial. Bullock pleaded not guilty to the charge in February and requested a jury trial.

Breana Troutman demonstrates how she said she saw her mother lying on the floor defending herself while Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock pointed a gun at her mother’s face in February 2021. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

When Bennettsville Police interviewed Bullock on Feb. 5, the judge admitted she had two handguns at the time: one in her purse and the other in her hand. The incident report shows Bullock felt threatened during her argument with Nash, but Bullock told the investigator she never pointed the gun at Nash.

Nash said that was not true.

“She had the gun right to my face and was like, ‘I’ll f—ing shoot you, Shanda,’ Nash said during our interview at her Bennettsville home on August 31. By the time we got in touch with Shanda Nash on August 25, more than six months had passed since she told police Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock stuck a pistol in her face and threatened to kill her.

The women became roommates around October 2020, but Bullock had once lived in the home with an ex-boyfriend. When that relationship ended, Bullock rented half the home to Nash and Nash’s 17-year-old daughter, she said.

The argument that morning started over Nash’s daughter after she said Bullock went into her daughter’s bedroom to “get onto her” about not having a job.

“That’s what started the argument was my daughter because she (Bullock) stepped in and she was trying to discipline my daughter,” Nash told FOX 46 Chief Investigator Jody Barr, “And like I told her, if you have something to say to my daughter, come to me. We can discuss it and I’ll discuss it with my daughter.”

Nash said the argument never got physical and never escalated above a shouting match.

Bennettsville Police Department records show Nash didn’t report the incident until three days later. Nash said she considered calling 911 that morning but waited to file the report because she thought she and her daughter would end up homeless if she went through with a police response.

Shanda Nash holds the charging document against Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock. Nash is listed as the victim in the case and intends to testify against Bullock in the trial scheduled for next month in the Bennettsville municipal court. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

A few days later Nash called the Bennettsville Police Department to report what happened. The department released the report to FOX 46 on August 25.

We asked Bullock multiple times for an interview throughout our news investigation, and again on Oct. 13, but Bullock would not respond to any of our requests.

Following our investigation into the Bullock weapon charge, Miller asked the State Law Enforcement Division to “review” his department’s prosecution decisions. SLED declined Miller’s request.

“At this time no information or evidence has been obtained to warrant SLED opening a new criminal investigation into this matter. There is no evidence to indicate anything improper was done by the arresting agency or officers.  Any cursory review of the initial arrest would be handled by the City Attorney or Solicitor’s Office,” SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby wrote in a response to FOX 46 seeking clarification on the agency’s decision.

Fourth Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers said since his office performs legal work for the county probate office it would not “be proper” for his office to be involved in any investigation of Bullock. Rogers directed the Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office to send a separate criminal investigation into Bullock to SLED in June citing a potential conflict of interest between his office and the probate court.

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The separate criminal investigation was presented to SLED in June and it took the agency more than two months to officially open that investigation into Bullock. In that case, Bullock is accused of impersonating a judge, rummaging through a dead man’s home, and participating in the removal of property from the man’s home in January 2021.

That man, Hollis Slade, died on Jan. 23. Security cameras outside Slade’s Joyce Drive home captured Bullock and others searching the man’s home looking for his will. The cameras also captured discussions between Bullock and the group about keeping financial information they found inside the man’s home from his family.

That investigation is still open at SLED.

Security cameras outside Hollis Slade’s home show Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock’s arrival the day after Slade’s death on Jan. 24, 2021. (Source: Hollis Slade Estate)

Chief Miller is the only law enforcer in Marlboro County to agree to an interview regarding Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock.

“This interview was important to me because let’s face it, I could have hid behind a desk, I could have hid behind a phone; that’s very easy to do is to hide. I’m out here in the open. I want people to know this is the truth, these are the facts. The Bennettsville Police Department is 100% acting in good faith with everything we’ve done,” Miller told FOX 46.

Miller submitted the case to the city’s attorney’s office for review and has requested the city attorney prosecute the case during the scheduled Nov. 16 trial, “I will not hide behind a desk or a door or a phone from anyone who has questions about anything pertaining to this case. That is not who I am and that is not what this police department represents,” Miller said.

Bullock will be tried in the Bennettsville municipal court. Her trial date is currently set for Nov. 16, 2021. We will continue to follow the prosecution and update our reporting.

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