August 6, 2014

Conviction upheld against former 'Rock Hill’s Most Wanted' 2008 killer

Carlos Luis Pinelas-Mejia eluded police for three years in Dominican Republic after killing Amber Schiavone.

The former most wanted criminal in Rock Hill who hid out in the Dominican Republic for three years after killing a 22-year-old Rock Hill woman in 2008 was denied a new trial this week.

Carlos Luis Pinales-Mejia, 39, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in February 2013 for the shooting death of Amber Schiavone, 22. But Pinales-Mejia later filed a civil lawsuit claiming the case was an involuntary manslaughter that would have carried less time in prison, and that Schiavone had grabbed the gun during a drug purchase, was playing with it, and she was shot after Pinales-Mejia tried to take the gun from Schiavone.

In Pinales-Mejia’s plea, he pleaded guilty under what is called an Alford plea where a defendant accepts responsibility and admits prosecutors have enough evidence to convict, but does not admit guilt. Sentencing in an Alford plea is the same as for any other guilty plea.

S.C. Attorney General’s Office prosecutor Rutledge Johnson opposed the lawsuit and argued against Pinales-Mejia deserving a new trial or a shot at a lesser sentence. After a court hearing at the Moss Justice Center in York, visiting Judge Ernest Kinard ruled against Pinales-Mejia, said Mark Powell, an attorney general’s office spokesman.

The arrest of Pinales-Mejia required international law enforcement cooperation and took three years as Rock Hill Police detectives named Pinales-Mejia law enforcement’s most sought felon.

Schiavone was found dead by friends inside Pinales-Mejia’s apartment in Rock Hill in January 2008. Pinales-Mejia, known to police as a person involved with drugs, was seen by witnesses holding a pistol at his side when he came to the door. But after the shooting, Pinales-Mejia’s family members told police he fled to the Dominican Republic and police worried that he would be off the grid forever.

Yet, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, working with Dominican police, found Pinales-Mejia hiding out in the city of San Juan de la Maguana in May 2011. He was extradited back to York County, yet before trial on murder charges pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, cocaine and other drug charges.

Pinales-Mejia is not eligible for parole.

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