Rock Hill road rage incident led to crash and murder, prosecutors say

A York County fatal crash in July was caused by a suspect’s road rage, prosecutors said in court.

Joseph Anthony Rufo, 43, of Lancaster, is charged with murder in the July 3 death of Dedrick Strain.

Strain, 25, of Lancaster, was driving a motorcycle when he was killed in the wreck south of Rock Hill on U.S. 21, S.C. Highway Patrol troopers said.

Rufo was in court Tuesday for a bond hearing after his arrest Oct. 1.

Rufo was driving an SUV the day of the crash, said Willy Thompson, 16th Deputy Solicitor. Rufo intentionally pulled in front of Strain’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle traveling around 55 MPH and slammed on brakes, Thompson said in court.

Strain’s motorcycle crashed into a guardrail, causing Strain to be killed, Thompson said.

Thompson said in court Rufo’s driving actions were done on purpose.

“This was egregious,” Thompson said of the road rage by Rufo. “This was an intentional act.”

Rufo told police after the crash that Strain “deserved it,” Thompson said. Rufo told law enforcement investigators there was a purported exchange between Rufo and Strain on Interstate 77 before the crash, Thompson said.

Troopers interviewed witnesses to the crash, Thompson said. No witnesses have told law enforcement there was any exchange between Strain and Rufo, Thompson said. The two men did not know each other, Thompson said.

Thompson said Rufo is both a flight risk and danger to the public if released.

Several of Strain’s family members said in court Strain was a fine man, father, and husband. All opposed Rufo receiving a bond.

“My nephew did not deserve to die,” said Terry Strain, the victim’s uncle.

Dedrick Strain’s widow, Carolina, said her husband’s death has ruined the life of the couple’s 5-year-old child.

A murder conviction in South Carolina carries a sentence of 30 years in prison to life, under state law.

Rufo did not speak in court. His lawyer, George Speedy, said Rufo is a family man who is not a danger to the public. Rufo did not flee during the three-month investigation and is not a flight risk, Speedy said.

“He knew there was an investigation and did not go anywhere,” Speedy said.

Visiting Circuit Court Judge William Seals issued Rufo a $150,000 bond. Seals also ordered Rufo to be under house arrest and electronic monitoring pending trial.

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Andrew Dys covers breaking news and public safety for The Herald, where he has been a reporter and columnist since 2000. He has won 51 South Carolina Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, race, justice, and people. He is author of the book “Slice of Dys” and his work is in the U.S. Library of Congress.