YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - A York County judge sentenced a North Carolina man to 20 years in prison for killing a man, then stealing his car to get away.
Charles Ridings, 23, took a plea deal in York County Court on Friday. He was charged with murder, grand larceny and armed robbery in relation to the killing of Scottie Starnes, 45, in June of 2018.
According to the Solicitor’s Office, the armed robbery offense was dismissed, and the charge of murder was reduced to voluntary manslaughter, in exchange for his plea.
Assistant Solicitor Matthew Hogge says Ridings was homeless and living in a tent in Charlotte. On June 2, 2018 Starnes picked Ridings up. Investigators say the two men were in a consensual romantic relationship.
However, Ridings told investigators that he turned down sexual advances Starnes made toward him that night. Ridings says he went to bed when they got to Starnes’ home on Old Friendship Road in York County.
“Ridings further claimed that he awoke to Starnes hitting him with a wooden object and attempting to pull his shorts off. At which time the defendant hit the victim with a metal object several times before he fell to the ground,” Hogge said in court.
They say Ridings stole several of Starnes’ personal belongings, including his car. Starnes later crashed the car on I-485 in Charlotte and began running from police. Police later found him in a wooded area where he lived in a tent.
Hogge says deputies found Starnes in a pool of dried blood. A syringe, crowbar and metal rod were found next to him. Hogge says the syringe was believed to have been used for methamphetamine.
Hogge and the defense says there were some disputes between the two parties about what really happened. They eventually agreed to a plea deal to avoid going to trial.
“He didn’t want to put the family through a trial,” Ridings defense attorney said. “It was understood that he wanted to take responsibility for what he did wrong and come in here today.”
Starnes’ mother and sister spoke to the courtroom about Starnes’ death.
“I’ve asked God to help me accept this and trust that He’s got a plan. And I trust that this young man will find God if he doesn’t already know him,” Starnes’ sister Phyllis Montague said.
“He was everything to me and now I have nothing,” Starnes’ Mother Kay Starnes said. “I’m lost without my son.”
Judge Daniel Hall agreed to the negotiated sentence of 20 years in prison. Ridings apologized for what he did.
“I know how it feels to have somebody you love taken from you," Ridings said. "I never meant to hurt him and I’m sorry.”