On Tuesday, about eight years later, David Ledaniel Hines received a 40-year sentence for the 2005 crime and other charges.
Seventh Circuit Deputy Solicitor Derrick Bulsa said it's unclear why Hines wasn't charged after his first confession, The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported.
Hines, 31, has been an inmate at Allendale Correctional Institution since 2006. In May 2018, he was charged with murder after confessing again to killing Rice, who was found dead in his bed of a gunshot wound to the head.
Hines was arrested during a traffic stop, about a month after Rice was killed. Multiple guns were found in the car, one of which investigators believed was connected to Rice's death. Hines pleaded guilty to multiple counts stemming from the stop, including kidnapping and armed robbery, and has been serving a 20-year prison sentence since.
Investigators with the Spartanburg Police Department approached Hines several times about Rice's death in the years that followed. In 2011, a detective confronted Hines with forensic evidence and information about the murder weapon and Hines confessed, saying three other men forced him to kill Rice to keep him silent about the death of Azon "Ace" Hollis, a 45-year-old man shot to death two months before Rice and in the same area.
"Why they didn't charge Mr. Hines at that time, I'm not sure," Bulsa said. "Perhaps they were trying to bring all the charges at once, and could not do it. We do know that the lead detective on the case left the police department around that time."
Police Lt. Doug Harwell said the case stalled when investigators were unable to corroborate Hines' claim that three other men were involved.
"The detectives that picked the case up and talked to him (Hines) in 2018 were able to substantiate a little more of the information," he said. "There were other people that we thought were involved, but we were never able to substantiate that. So they just went ahead and charged him because they were able to do a little bit more with the information from 2011 to make it a stronger case."
Police are still looking into whether anyone else was involved.
Circuit Court Judge R. Keith Kelly agreed to give Hines 8-years' credit for the time he's served since first admitting to his role in Rice's death.
In the 13 years between her son's death and Hines' second confession, Faye Smith said she contacted police regularly to ask if there was any update on the investigation. Each time, she said, investigators told her it was still an open investigation.
When Hines was ultimately charged, Smith said she learned of the confession from a third party familiar with the case.
"As soon as they booked him, they should have notified me," she said. "I've been kept in the dark the whole 13 and a half years, even though I was around there every month like clockwork, asking 'What's going on with my son's case? What's going on with my son's case?'"
Harwell, however, said the department reached out to Smith after Hines confessed in 2018, per agency policy.
"When we make the charge, we notify the family," he said. "She was notified before the warrants were served on him."
Smith said since 2005, she has regularly woken up in the middle of the night, panicked and screaming her son's name. She has waited for justice for more than a decade, and said she believes it should have come sooner.
"It's sad that I could have gotten closure eight years ago when he first confessed," she said.
Smith said she's relieved her son's killer is finally being held responsible, but said she's deeply concerned it took so long.
"At least now I have closure and I can see some peace," she said. "...Nobody can give me the answer to why he was not charged the first time. I keep asking that question."
As for her son's killer, Smith said she hopes one day to let go of the anger she has for him.
"I know I've got to forgive him and move on, but I can't do it right now," she said. "He took his life. Every time I think about it, I think about how he did it while he was asleep."
Information from: Herald-Journal, http://www.goupstate.com/
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