Repeat Offender Sentenced to 45 Years for Shooting Mother After Attempted Rape of Child

Nathaniel “Nate” Hunter, age 34, was sentenced to 45 years following his conviction for a home invasion which involved the attempted rape of a six (6) year old child and attempted murder of the child’s mother in Lexington County on April 13, 2014.

The trial began on Monday, April 24th in a Lexington County courtroom and the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts on Friday afternoon. Hunter was convicted of burglary – first degree, attempted murder, criminal sexual conduct with a minor – third degree, and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. He was sentenced to forty-five (45) years on the burglary charge and received concurrent sentences on the remaining charges. Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Cooper, Jr. imposed the sentence. The crimes are classified as violent and are “no parole” offenses.

The child and her mother were awakened during the night at approximately 3:00 am to find Hunter in the bedroom of their West Columbia apartment while armed with a .40 caliber pistol. Hunter was dressed in black, wearing a ski mask and hoodie to shield his face. Hunter ordered the mother and child to remove their clothing at gunpoint. Once the child’s clothing was removed, her mother lunged at the intruder in an attempt to take away the weapon. A struggle ensued and the mother was shot 5 times in multiple areas of her body. After sustaining the gunshot wounds and bleeding profusely, the mother continued to restrain Hunter to prevent him from reaching her child in the bedroom. She pulled off his stocking cap and hoodie as she forced him out of the residence. Hunter then fled the scene.

The victim and her young daughter were able to reach a neighbor’s apartment where a 911 call was placed at 3:08 am. Emergency crews arrived to find the mother collapsed on the neighbor’s floor and transported her to Palmetto Health Richland Trauma Unit where she underwent life-saving surgery.

Investigators from the West Columbia Police Department (WCPD), including CSI Sgt. Charles Bramlett, arrived at the scene and began processing evidence in an attempt to identify a suspect. The stocking cap left at the crime scene was collected by Sgt. Bramlett and submitted to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for testing. Forensic analysts were able to develop a DNA profile from the cap. The DNA profile was entered into CODIS (the DNA database utilized by SLED) and determined to be a match to Hunter.

The West Columbia Police Department, in conjunction with SLED and the Richland County Sheriff’s Office, arrested Hunter on April 17, 2014. At the time of his arrest, Hunter had fresh abrasions to the face and forehead as a result of his struggle with the victim. He was found in possession of a stocking cap which was identical to the one left at the crime scene in West Columbia. Hunter also possessed a cell phone which was later extracted by Det. Mike Phipps of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. The phone extraction ultimately revealed photographs of Hunter wielding a .40 caliber Glock. Testing conducted by SLED determined that the fired bullets found at the crime scene in West Columbia were consistent with a .40 caliber Glock.

The phone extraction also revealed numerous searches by Hunter on the topic of DNA evidence and testing. Within days after the crime, Hunter began making calls to both SLED and the S.C. Department of Probation and Parole attempting to have his DNA removed from their database. Hunter’s DNA profile had originally been placed into the database following a 2003 conviction for possession of burglary tools. Hunter also had a conviction for indecent exposure following a 2010 offense involving a child.

At the time the West Columbia attack was committed, Hunter was out on bond on charges of murder, burglary – first degree, and possession of a weapon during a violent crime from Fairfield County.

During the trial, the surviving mother and her child, now age 9, testified in detail regarding the home invasion, shooting, and attempted sexual assault. Testimony revealed that CSI Sgt. Bramlett, who passed away unexpectedly in 2015, had been instrumental in the collection and preservation of critical evidence in this case.

The case was prosecuted by 11th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Suzanne Mayes and Assistant Solicitor Robby McNair. “We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the entire West Columbia Police Department, and especially Sgt. Bramlett, during this investigation. Their investigators worked countless hours to solve this crime and bring Hunter to justice,” said Deputy Solicitor Mayes. Assistant Solicitor McNair commended the heroic actions of the victim, stating “as she watched her child stand naked and terrified, not knowing what was about to happen, she made a decision that she was willing to lay down her life to stop him.”

The victim addressed the court regarding sentencing and requested a lengthy period of incarceration due to her daughter’s emotional scars. She stated that Hunter has “forever stolen her daughter’s security and innocence.”

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