Alabama man charged with murder, kidnapping after deadly SC crash

Justin O’neil Penn

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – A man from Alabama was charged with murder and kidnapping after a 19-year-old woman died in a crash on Highway 22 on May 18.

According to a Horry County police report, Conway police received a report that the woman who died was being held against her will in the car.

Horry County police say 20-year-old Justin O’neil Penn, of Montgomery, Alabama was arrested May 18, and charged with murder and kidnapping. Penn was the driver of the vehicle, the report states.

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Police spokesperson Krystal Dotson says Penn was taken to the hospital shortly after the crash, but online records show he was booked at the J Reuben Long Detention Center six hours after emergency crews were called to the crash.

Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard says 19-year-old Shemeria Smith died in the hospital Wednesday morning after the crash on Tuesday, May 18, at 2:30 p.m. on Highway 22 at mile marker 10. Smith was a passenger in the car and had recently moved to the Myrtle Beach area from Alabama. The report from Horry County police says dispatch advised officers a person had been thrown from the car.

The police report states the Conway Police Department had a report of a female being held against her will in the same car involved in the crash, a silver Honda Accord with Alabama plates.

According to the report, investigators were told the crash could have been intentional. The Horry County Criminal Investigation Division was notified and a crime scene was set up.

Dispatch initially informed responding officers the male in the car could have a gun, but K9 teams who combed the scene for evidence were unable to find a firearm at the scene of the crash.

According to Willard, Smith died from multiple traumatic injuries sustained in the car crash, and her death has been classified as a homicide.

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