MURRELLS INLET, SC (WBTW) – A man has been charged with murder and arson after a fire at a popular Murrells Inlet bait and tackle shop Friday morning.
Warrants and the police report released Wednesday reveal that a shop employee actually witnessed the suspect pour flammable liquid on the porch of the business and tried to stop him.
Another warrant says a witness also saw what they believed was a possible body under a blanket on the boat the suspect was on when he fled the scene of the fire.
According to JR Haney, assistant fire chief with Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue, crews responded to the fire at Perry’s Bait & Tackle at 9:57 a.m. Friday morning. When firefighters arrived, there were visible flames, but crews were able to get the fire under control relatively quickly.
A press release from the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office says witnesses reported seeing a male leaving the area in a small vessel shortly after the fire. Crews with the sheriff’s office marine patrol unit, SC DNR and the US Coast Guard searched the area and found the vessel, the man, and a dead female on-board the boat around 1 p.m.
The woman was later identified by the sheriff’s office as 36-year-old Jessica Lynn Hill of Murrells Inlet. An autopsy performed at MUSC Saturday reveals Hill’s cause of death was strangulation and head trauma, according to the Georgetown County Coroner’s Office.
The male located on the boat, 35-year-old Eric Justin Perry, has been charged with murder and arson. Warrants explain Perry used “personal weapons” to assault Hill.
Perry is being held at the Georgetown County Detention Center awaiting a bond hearing.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Haney confirms the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office and SLED have been notified. In the press release from the sheriff’s office, investigators refer to the fire as “suspicious.”
Friday, Perry’s Bait and Tackle issued a statement on their Facebook page asking for prayers for the victim’s family. According to the post, Hill had three children.