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Memories of the Lancaster County Courthouse
A Grand Jury in South Carolina is just about as useful as tits on a bore hog but I had a special case that day that I thought would wake up that sleepy little bunch. I shifted the indictments so that this particular case would come last behind all the DUI’s, Reckless Driving, Aggravated Assault cases and Burglaries.
It was the the mid ‘70’s. I had been promoted to the rank of Detective Sergeant at the Lancaster PD and it was my duty to meet with the Grand Jury to testify on all cases that had been made. They would rubber stamp a ruling of probable cause in each case. It was a boring process and the foreperson had heard it all. Her eyes had glazed over, she was slouched down in her chair and everyone else was paying even less attention. That was about to change.
“This is the case of the State of South Carolina vs. Chris Penn (ficticious name). He is charged with buggery.”
No one was looking at me so I stopped, put down the file and poured myself some ice water into a glass. Bottled water had not been invented yet, or if it had there was none in Lancaster.
“I was still on Patrol last summer when I made this case.” I said. “The prowler call came in about one fifteen that morning. We had been having these calls for about a month at one house on Hampton Road. So I told the Lieutenant that I was going to park about a block away and walk in. He would come in from the other end as a back-up.”
“You actually caught someone burglarizing a home?” The forelady asked.
“Not exactly.” I said and took a long swallow of the water.
“I parked on Chesterfield Avenue and walked in toward the house. The small white house was only a few feet off the street. There was a wire fence in the back about five feet tall. I eased up beside the house and sidled toward the back yard as far as the fence. Then I took a quick look into the back.”
I had their attention now, even the forelady was watching.
“I saw the defendant, kneeling in the yard. He was holding a medium sized mix breed dog to his lap and his pants were down around his ankles.”
She picked up the indictment and looked the charge typed on the front.
“Buggery,” I said. “is an unnatural sex act with a man or beast.”
She instantly dropped the indictment back onto the pile.
“I don’t remember pulling my gun.” I said. “But I had to put it back before I could climb the fence and by this time the defendant was running away and trying to hold up his pants. He got over the next fence about the time I got to to it. Then I got over and he was getting away! His pants slid down, he tripped on them and then I caught him.”
I told them about cuffing the guys hands behind his back and having to buckle his pants for him. I told them about researching the law and finding the buggery statute.
I waited but there were no questions. So I did not tell them the end of the story.
I went back to the house and interviewed the owners. They said the dog never barked and after I told them what the guy had done one of them told me that it sort of explained something she had heard.
“What?’ I asked.
“Someone going shhh, shhhh.”
- The Meanest Woman in Lancaster- a mostly true story.
Actually, I was the watch commander in my little town of less than 10,000 people in the mid seventies when we encountered the meanest woman in Lancaster, SC. (She is dead now so I feel comfortable telling...