Yemassee man convicted in 2015 double homicide
Joshua Poacher, 22, was found guilty April 12 of two counts of murder and one count each of armed robbery and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in the Aug. 16, 2015, deaths of Kantibhai Patel, 72, and his wife Hansaben Patel, 67, according to the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
Solicitor Duffie Stone called the double slaying at Best Western Point South a “cold-blooded execution.”
“Mrs. Patel was bending over her dead husband when Poacher shot her in the back,” Stone said at the Jasper County Courthouse.
Circuit Court Judge R. Lawton McIntosh sentenced the Yemassee man to two life sentences on April 13. McIntosh also sentenced Poacher to 30 years in prison for armed robbery and five years for having a deadly weapon. Poacher received the maximum sentences.
The Patels lived and worked at the Point South motel as housekeepers. Poacher entered their room that morning, shot and killed the couple, and stole several items, including foreign currency and a debit card that he attempted to use 15 times before he was arrested later that day, the Solicitor’s Office said.
“Mr. Poacher is exactly where he needs to be,” Stone said. “Mr. and Mrs. Patel were truly innocent people. They were getting ready for work when they were gunned down. They hadn’t even had time to put on their shoes.”
Prosecutors called 17 witnesses before resting their case.
Among those who testified was the defendant’s half sister, a convenience store clerk who told the jury that Poacher used a debit card at her store shortly after the murders.
The store’s surveillance cameras recorded Poacher’s use of an in-store ATM. He wore clothes similar to those described by eyewitnesses who saw a man scurrying out of the Patels’ room earlier that morning.
Jennifer Turno, a fraud investigator for Regions Bank, testified that the ATM rejected an attempt to withdraw money using the Patels’ card because the user entered an incorrect PIN. The attempt occurred about the time Poacher was in the store.
Experts from the State Law Enforcement Division testified that Poacher’s fingerprints were found on items in the Patels’ room.
SLED investigators also found a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun underneath a bed at another motel where Poacher was living. That gun was used to kill the Patels, the Solicitor’s Office said.
The jury also saw video of Poacher’s interview with SLED investigator Richard Johnson that took place three days after the murders.
In two earlier interviews, Poacher told investigators the gun and items taken from the Patels’ room were given to him by an acquaintance. In the third interview, he admitted he was in the Patels’ room that morning.
Poacher said he was on his way to eat breakfast at a Denny’s restaurant that adjoins the Best Western when he saw Mr. Patel on the balcony outside his room. Poacher said he asked to borrow a cigarette lighter and Mr. Patel invited him into his room.
A scuffle ensued after Mr. Patel saw a gun Poacher was carrying and became agitated, Poacher said in the interview.
Poacher claimed he shot Mr. Patel because he was scared, then shot his wife when she charged at him.
Dr. Nicholas Batalis, the Medical University of South Carolina forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies on the Patels, cast doubt on Poacher’s story. He told the jury that the couple was likely shot from a distance of more than 4 feet, not in a close-range scuffle, and likely died where they fell, near the back of the room, not near the front door, as Poacher told the SLED investigator.
Batalis also testified that Hansaben Patel, who was found lying on top of her husband, was shot three times on the side of her shoulder, likely from rounds fired in quick succession. A fourth shot in her back pierced her lungs and aorta and proved fatal, the pathologist said.