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Postal Inspectors honor detectives for Clarendon cases

Revised on: 08.10.2018 at 09:07 a.m.

Posted on: 08.10.2018 at 07:39 a.m.

By Jefferson Weaver

jeffersonweaver@nrcolumbus.com

Det. Sgt. Scott Norris and Det. Ken Elliot of the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office  were honored Wednesday for their efforts to solve two robberies at the Clarendon Post Office.

“We treasure our relationships with local agencies,” said Paul Mezzanotte, asst. inspector in charge of the Charlotte Division of the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service.

Ken Elliot and Scott Norris of the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office investigative division were honored by the U.S. Postal Service Wednesday for their work on two robberies at the Clarendon Post Office. From left to right are Postal Inspector Chad Parnell, Det. Elliot, Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, Det. Sgt. Norris, Asst. Inspector in Charge Paul Mezzanotte, and Postal Inspections Team Leader Mike Carroll.

Norris and Elliot worked on two separate cases involving the post office branch, which officials said has been targeted by thieves due to its remote location.

On May 3, 2016, Jonathan Stefan Vanderhorst, Jim Tracy Miller, and Demetrious Altman, all of Tabor City, robbed the Clarendon branch, according to a federal indictment from the U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C.

Altman acted as the getaway driver while Miller and Vanderhorst entered the facility, jumped the counter, and pistol-whipped the clerk. They escaped with $284 and the clerk’s cellphone.

The three men joined forces again on May 16, when Altman drove Miller and Vanderhorst to the Loris Market and Beverage Store. 

 The owner of the store, Edy Boudagh, along with his wife and children, were inside when Vanderhorst and Miller entered the store.

Vanderhorst fired at Mrs. Boudagh but missed, then fired another round into the ceiling. Boudagh emptied the till and gave it to Miller, investigators said, then Vanderhorst turned and fired twice, striking and killing Boudagh.

Boudagh was studying to be a pastor at the time of his death, and was a naturalized American citizen.

Vanderhorst, Miller and Altman all pleaded guilty in June, and are awaiting sentencing, according to Postal Inspectors Team Leader Mike Carroll. They could each face 40 years to life in prison, since the crimes involved a firearm and crossing state lines.

The second incident at the Clarendon Post Office involved an individual with a BB gun. No injuries were reported, and the suspect was quickly taken into custody by deputies.

In addition to commendations from the Postal Service, Elliot and Norris were presented special framed displays of the cancelled 1968 Peace Officers Memorial stamp and post card. The displays are paired with a lapel badge of the Postal Inspection Service as well as an engraved placard.

“We couldn’t do this without the help of our local partners,” said Postal Inspector Chad Powell, who worked on the 2016 Post Office robbery and the later killing in Loris. “We are too few and far between, and local agencies like you are right there on the spot.”

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