2 arrested after 2 bodies found in burning truck in York County (+ video)

Steven Parker
Steven Parker Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office

Two Blacksburg men have been charged with the murders of two men whose bodies were found Thursday night in a burning pickup in western York County after they had been shot to death in what investigators say was a botched drug deal.

Steven Eugene Parker, 33, and Donald Edward Creswell Jr., 45, both of Blacksburg, were each charged with one count of murder, according to Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller. They are both expected to be charged with an additional count of murder, Mueller said.

Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller discusses arrest of two men in the killings of two men whose bodies were found in a burning pickup in Hickory Grove in York County. Mueller said the case involved a drug deal that went bad.

Parker and Creswell are accused of fatally shooting two men in a Blacksburg home sometime earlier this week. The bodies of the two victims were found about 11:30 p.m. Thursday in a pickup that had been set ablaze in a wooded area off Bonner Horton Road in Hickory Grove, authorities say.

The York County Coroner’s Office on Saturday, tentatively identified the deceased as Aron Lucas Young, 35,  and Jerry Dwayne Farmer, 43, both of Gastonia, N.C. Both decedents were transported to Charleston for autopsy on Saturday morning. The case is being investigation as a homicide, Coronor Sabrina Gast said.

Gast said the bodies were badly burned and positive identification will need to be conducted through DNA.

The investigation began about 7 p.m. Thursday when Cherokee County deputies received a tip of a possible shooting at a home on Jumping Branch Road in Blacksburg, Mueller said. A deputy went to the home and saw Creswell in the yard burning a “large debris pile” that included carpeting and other items from inside the home. The deputy extinguished the fire, and additional officers obtained a search warrant for the home.

“We clearly saw a crime had been committed within the home and outside the home,” Mueller said. Methamphetamine was found inside, and Creswell was arrested on drug charges.

Cherokee County investigators learned about 6 a.m. Friday that York County deputies had responded to a vehicle fire in Hickory Grove in which two bodies were found, and Mueller said he contacted the York County Sheriff’s Office to let them know of a crime scene but no victims.

Mueller said the victims, who are both from North Carolina, may have been killed as early as Tuesday. By late Friday morning, investigators had enough to obtain murder warrants for each suspect.

The victims previously met with the Parker and Creswell in North Carolina to conduct a drug transaction, Mueller said, but the suspects were “spooked.”

“They thought these guys were setting them up,” he said. “They later ... talked them into coming down to Cherokee County, where they were going to conduct the drug transaction. The information we have is, one of the gentlemen got up and began shooting the victims in the home.”

Parker was arrested about 2 p.m. Friday at a home on Norman Boulevard in Gaffney. Because only a circuit court judge can set bond for murder, neither suspect will have a bond hearing until sometime next week, Mueller said.

“We believe the pickup truck and the bodies were taken somewhere and left for a period of time, and then were taken over to York County probably sometime late (Thursday) evening,” he said, adding that the pickup did not belong to either suspect. An accelerant was used to start the fire, which spread to the surrounding wooded area.

More arrests are possible, and Mueller said it’s not clear who transported the bodies to York County. He added that a woman was seen walking near where the burning truck was discovered.

“Our detectives will begin to focus their efforts on persons who may have assisted in taking the bodies over to York County,” he said. “We know they were possibly assisted by other people.”

Both suspects have lengthy criminal histories, Mueller said. Parker was out on bond for drug charges, he said.

“He’s a bad guy. I’m glad he’s off our streets,” Mueller said. “Unfortunately, two innocent persons had to lose their lives as a result of this man. But he has shown a history of snubbing his nose at the system.”

These are the first and second murders of the year for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, which typically sees no more than two murders annually, Mueller said.

“It was pretty brutal, the way these guys were murdered and how their bodies were disposed of,” Mueller said. “It was very violent ... and, ultimately, was driven by what drives almost every crime in South Carolina and North Carolina and every community across the United States. It’s people who are addicted to drugs.”

The York County Sheriff’s Office, York County Coroner’s Office, State Law Enforcement Division and Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina are assisting Cherokee County in the investigation.

In the past decade police in York County and Chester County have had several incidents of killings that happened in other places yet the bodies were found in York or Chester counties.

In 2009, two North Carolina women were found dead in northwestern York County near the Gaston County, N.C., line, including one of the women found burned in Kings Mountain State Park. Danny Hembree of Gastonia was convicted and sentenced to death after a trial in North Carolina for the crimes, but the convictions were recently overturned and a new trial ordered. Hembree remains in jail.

On Vista Road in Fort Mill, tucked off busy Pleasant Road not far from the Mecklenburg County, N.C., line, at least four bodies have been found in the past decade. One of those bodies was burned. Police said one of the victims was from Charlotte who had been killed there and dumped.

In 2008 in Chester County, police found the body of a teenaged Union County cheerleader in a burned car. Police and prosecutors in that case, as in the current case, found that the homicide happened west of the Broad River that is the western boundary for both York and Chester County with neighboring Cherokee and Union counties.

Related stories from Rock Hill Herald