Man charged with murder in elderly woman’s killing

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — A 21-year-old Liberty man was denied bond Tuesday on a variety of charges including murder in the death of an 89-year-old Liberty woman.

The body of Margaret Alice Karr was founded in her home at 517 Mills Ave. shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, Pickens County Coroner Kandy Kelley said.

Thomas James Chapman is charged with murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of first-degree burglary, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and petit larceny.

Liberty Police Chief Adam Gilstrap said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon that Chapman was identified as a potential suspect during a neighborhood canvass on Sunday after Karr’s body was found.

Gilstrap said Chapman provided details of the crime during an interview at the police department.

Chapman entered Karr’s home through an unlocked window at the back of the house and took money from Karr’s bedroom before sexually assaulting her, according to Gilstrap.

The chief said Karr was “incapacitated and severely injured” during the attack, and Chapman left the home and returned “a short time later” with a knife, which he used to cut her throat.

Gilstrap thanked the State Law Enforcement Division and the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office for their help in the investigation. He said a SLED forensics team responded from Columbia to help process the scene and sheriff’s office detectives helped with the neighborhood canvass, “which directly led to identifying the suspect.”

Gilstrap said Karr was “truly loved by her family and the Liberty community.”

“Everyone spoke to her kindness and generous nature,” Gilstrap said. “Everyone I talked to in the neighborhoods, that’s all they could talk about.

“This well respected woman of God will be greatly missed. Please join her family and Liberty by celebrating her life.”

Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark said he knew Karr, and “she was a great Christian lady and she showed it every day.”

“A situation like this stuns a community,” Clark said. “We think it happens everywhere else, but it happens here. So as we go forward, let us make something good out of this. Let us do what we have to do to recover from this and become stronger in Liberty and Pickens County.”

A family member of Karr, Mark Wells, also spoke at Tuesday’s news conference.

“It’s our hope and our expectation that justice will be served on behalf of Alice Karr,” Wells said. “And when that justice is served, the family can turn and remember Alice’s life, rather than her death.”

In a Facebook post, East Side Baptist Church senior pastor Joshua Hughes said Karr was one of the first people he met when he joined the church in January 2019.

“It took all of 3.5 seconds for this pastor to fall in love with this dear saint of God,” Hughes wrote. “From her voice, to her sweet demeanor, to her presence, I adopted her as my grandmother whether she agreed to it or not!”

Hughes said Karr was a “grandmother to all that came in contact with her.”

“I’ll remember Alice for the legacy and paw print she left on East Side Baptist Church, a young pastor, her town/community, the family that she loved so much,” Hughes wrote. “She showed us Jesus, (and) the best way to remember her is continue that legacy of showing others Christ in us!”

Karr’s autopsy was scheduled for Monday, Kelley said. Results will take eight to 12 weeks.