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Greenville County deputies have charged an Upstate special education teacher's former student with murder after she was found dead at a local hotel.
Dispatchers said they received a call about an explosion at the Quality Inn and Suites motel on South Pleasantburg Drive near Mauldin Road at 5:28 a.m. Monday.
Deputy Jennings Autry said a woman was found dead inside the room where the reported explosion occurred, but there were no other injuries reported. He said guests in the surrounding rooms were evacuated.
Coroner Parks Evans said the woman had to be identified with dental records because of the severity of her burns. Evans identified her as 39-year-old Laurie Patton, of Travelers Rest.
According to the Greenville County Schools spokesperson, Patton was a special education resources teacher at Berea Middle School since 2005. The school district said additional counselors are on hand to meet with staff and students in the wake of Patton's death.
"Laurie Patton was an amazing person and inspiring teacher and friend who cared so deeply about her students, their families, and fellow teachers and school staff," said Robin Mill, principal. "Our Berea Middle School community is devastated by her loss. We will continue to pray for her family as we work through our own grief."
Deputies investigate fire, damage to hotel room
Deputies said there were signs of a fire contained to the motel room. Specially trained arson investigators were at the scene Monday afternoon but have not released information about what could have started the fire.
The Greenville County Sheriff's Office meth team also responded to the incident and did not find evidence of a meth lab, according to deputies.
Guests at the motel said they were awakened and evacuated to the motel lobby. One motel guest told FOX Carolina he awoke to the sound of busted glass and a bunch of screaming coming from a room.
He said he stepped outside to see what was going on and in the room two doors down, he saw a busted window and someone spraying a fire extinguisher into the room. He said smoke was coming from the room and people were yelling about the fire.
Another motel guest who was staying in the room right next door to where the woman and fire were discovered said she heard glass breaking and ran out to see two people running from the scene. She said she helped spray the fire extinguisher into the room and knock on doors to wake people up.
Deputies said witnesses reported an explosion but aid there was no explosion during the incident.
Deputies to question man arrested in GA in connection with case
Deputy Jonathan Smith said the hotel room was rented to Patton and her car was located in Georgia during an unrelated traffic stop Monday.
Smith said a man was driving Patton's car when he was stopped and the charges he was arrested on were unrelated to the hotel death investigation. He said the sheriff's office does not have any charges against him at this time.
According to Sgt. Carissa McFaddin with the Banks County Sheriff's Office, deputies stopped the car along Interstate 85 on Monday morning because he was going about 35 mph.
The man, identified as Darrin Eskew, was acting "erratic and unpredictable," according to McFaddin. She said when deputies tried to get him out of the car, he tried to hit a deputy in the face.
A struggle ensued and deputies shocked Eskew with a stun gun, McFaddin said. She said deputies only received superficial injuries during the struggle.
Deputy Drew Pinciaro said Eskew and the victim were acquaintances from her being his school teacher in the past.
Eskew was arrested and charged with two counts of felony obstruction of an officer and miscellaneous traffic charges. McFaddin said Greenville County deputies planned to speak with Eskew about their investigation, but did not have any other details to release.
On March 6, the Greenville County Sheriff's Office released warrants charging 21-year-old Eskew with murder, arson and grand larceny.
According to the warrants, Eskew is accused of strangling Patton and setting her on fire.
Pinciaro said Eskew and Patton got into a physical altercation where he strangled the victim and then set the motel room on fire.
Pinciaro said Eskew then stole Patton's vehicle and fled the scene. He is also charged with the grand larceny of Patton's vehicle.
According to Pinciaro, the specific cause of death has not been determined at this time and they are awaiting toxicology results.
Eskew is awaiting extradition from Georgia on Thursday night.
Investigators ask anyone with information about what might have happened to call Crime Stoppers at 864-23-CRIME.
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