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No One In SC Town Knows Why Accused Murderer Isn't In Jail

After Joseph Brand confessed to killing two sisters in the tiny South Carolina town of Kingstree, he was sent to a mental hospital in 2012 to be treated for schizophrenia so he could later be tried for murder. A decade later, he showed up in the town of 3,100, not facing any charges. “He executed two elderly women,” said Lori Murray, attorney for victims' family. “I can’t believe he isn’t a danger to the whole town just out walking around.” Murray and the families of Naomi Johnson, 65, and her 74-year-old sister Thelma Haddock, gave the sparse court records they could find and other information to the Associated Press. No one has given the family any explanation for why his charges just disappeared.

A judge’s order in 2012 said if Brand’s mental competency were restored, he was to be held without bond for his trial. A prosecutor could seek 30 years to life in prison for Brand, with the possibility of a death penalty trial. Prosecutors have promised to reinstate the charges and said they will ask a grand jury to indict Brand again this month, Murray said. Members of the sisters’ family said they had faith in the system, even when a call to Solicitor Chip Finney to check on the case in 2018 went unanswered. That was, until they saw Brand walking around free. The family said in a statement, “We want justice for our mothers. We want closure for our families, we want Joseph Brand to pay for his crimes and we want answers as to how and why he was released without prosecution.” No one quite knows how Brand ended up back in Kingstree last year.

Murray said even though the solicitor has promised to bring the case before a grand jury, she is concerned about whether that will happen because it isn’t clear whether Brand was declared mentally competent.


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