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.


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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