South Carolina’s youngest killer still in jail
On a frosty morning in Chester five years ago, a national spectacle came to an end when the South Carolina child killer pleaded guilty without fanfare and went to jail until 2023.
There were no cameras in court. No satellite TV trucks. No Larry King and Court TV and no children’s advocate oppose the prosecution of a 12-year-old as an adult for murder.
Since that cold day in December 2010, Christopher Pittman has not been in the news. He’s just another inmate who killed his sleeping grandparents with a shotgun.
Paternal grandparents Joe and Joy Pittman brought Christopher to Chester County to start over in 2001 after his birth mother abandoned him and his father punished him for behaving badly.
On November 29, 2001, Christopher’s grandfather rowed him out after a fight with a school bus the day before. During a confrontation at church, Christopher was unruly and hostile towards his grandparents.
Christopher, on a prescribed but controversial antidepressant, waited until his grandparents fell asleep, stole his grandfather’s shotgun from a closet, and killed them while they slept in their beds.
Then Christopher set the house on fire, stole the family’s truck, and ran away.
When he was arrested in Cherokee County, Christopher blamed the crime on a black criminal who didn’t exist and then confessed.
It took nine years, two trials and a quashed verdict, but it ended five years ago when Pittman pleaded guilty to two counts of intentional manslaughter and was sentenced to 25 years.
Pittman’s defense said the prescribed drugs drove him to murder. Cops and prosecutors say he was a violent and hateful kid who had access to guns, so he used them.
Pittman, now 26, sleeps with a roommate in a cell at an Allendale prison and waits until 2023. That’s when he can be released after more than 20 years in prison after being the youngest killer convicted of adulthood in South Carolina.
“He’s been a model inmate, but there’s no early release for Christopher,” said Delnora Duprey, Pittman’s maternal grandmother who lives in Florida. “There is no good conduct leave for manslaughter – although that would be good. He still has seven long years.
Pittman works on the prison horticultural team. Like the prison factories, he grew up in prison.
“He is a very intelligent, fine and gentle young man,” said Duprey, who visits the prison often. “He has been in prison for 14 years. He is my hero. “
Duprey and children’s advocates rallied to Pittman’s defense shortly after the prescription drugs were revealed, saying antidepressants aimed at adults were to blame and the state was bloodthirsty to charge a child with murder while a 12-year-old’s brain is not fully developed.
Murder and court battles made the news across America.
Texas civilian attorneys specializing in fighting drug companies have started the criminal trial, saying Paxil and Zoloft were to blame for the murders.
Prosecutors blamed meanness and a child who was disciplined by his grandparents. Only an adult criminal could conspire, plan and commit such a horrific series of crimes, police and prosecutors have said.
After his arrest, Pittman was caught queuing up at a juvenile prison. It was one of more than two dozen disciplinary offenses while incarcerated. His grandmother said the meds were still working and after Christopher stopped taking his meds he changed for the better.
But it was too late.
Pittman was convicted as an adult in 2005 in a Charleston trial that was broadcast live across the country. He was sentenced to 30 years, the maximum for a minor convicted of murder.
National television did some specials. The Supreme Courts of the United States and South Carolina refused to overturn the verdict due to Pittman’s age.
In 2010, the verdict was overturned after a civil lawsuit where Pittman sued his defense attorneys because trial attorneys never told Pittman’s court-appointed guardian – attorney for Chester Milton Hamilton – that ‘there were plea negotiations going on.
A plea deal for manslaughter could have resulted in two to 30 years in prison. Some believed Pittman would have been sentenced to 10 years if he had accepted the deal. He would have been released from prison today if a deal had been reached before the 2005 trial.
The trial lawyers did not want an agreement.
Hamilton said during the civil trial that as a court-appointed guardian he would have advised Pittman to strike a manslaughter plea deal despite trial lawyers’ belief that Pittman would walk.
Hamilton, still a lawyer in Chester, said trial lawyers “made decisions without ever discussing them with me,” which violated Pittman’s rights as a minor. Due to Pittman’s age, Hamilton, as a court-appointed guardian, had a role: watch over Pittman. Hamilton’s job was not to monitor lawyers who had hoped for civil suits after a not guilty verdict. Hamilton was not on the side of prosecutors who wanted a maximum sentence.
His only job was to protect Christopher Pittman, who by all accounts for whatever reason was a killer.
“At least every other day, I would ask if there had been any plea negotiations and I was told no,” Hamilton recalls of the trial 10 years ago.
The civil trial showed that the judge, prosecutors and trial lawyers discussed the plea agreements. The criminal conviction was dismissed. A new trial was ordered, but Pittman quickly struck a plea deal for manslaughter and he was sentenced five years ago to 25 years.
“It was a terrible situation – a terrible crime,” Hamilton said.
‘He was a child’
Since 2010, hardly anyone has asked questions about Pittman.
“It’s been three years, more, that no one has talked about it,” said Hamilton.
The case was significant in 2001 when it occurred, and significant in 2005 during the Charleston trial, and significant in 2010 when it was quashed and Pittman pleaded guilty, Hamilton said. It’s important today because it shook Chester, and the “horrible crimes” were committed by a child of only 12, Hamilton said.
This remains important for Delnora Duprey, who said her grandson had already spent much of her life in prison, and she said she still believed his prescribed medication led him to commit a double murder.
“He was a kid,” Duprey said. “He was 12 years old. Why would he kill the two people he loved most in the world?
Duprey drives from Florida when she can to visit her grandson. The journey takes six hours. She says every minute is worth it.
Pittman is not eligible for parole, but if he doesn’t have prison problems over the next seven years, he will “max” to 85% of his 25-year sentence in February 2023, Pete said. O’Boyle, spokesperson for the SC department. probation, parole and pardon services.
The grandmother and grandson wait until 2023, when Christopher Pittman, who will have spent 22 of his 34 years in prison, will be released into a world he has not seen since killing his grown-ups. -parents at 12 years old.