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Horry County deputy stephen flood sentenced to 18 years in prison

After people with mental health problems drowned in his van, he got 18 years in prison.

Two women drowned in 2018 after a former deputy drove through floodwaters caused by Hurricane Florence. The former deputy was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide.

A former South Carolina sheriff's deputy was found guilty on Thursday and given 18 years in prison for driving a jail van into floodwaters while taking two women to a mental health center in 2018. The women drowned in a cage in the back of the van as the water rose.

Stephen Flood, a former deputy for the Horry County Sheriff's Office, was found guilty by a jury in Marion County of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of reckless homicide in the deaths of 43-year-old Nicolette Green and 45-year-old Wendy Newton. They were people with mental illnesses who Mr. Flood and another deputy were taking from hospitals to places where they had been sent because they were dangerous.

During the trial, the prosecutor, Ed Clements, the 12th Circuit solicitor, argued that Mr. Flood acted recklessly when he "refused" to turn around and drove through a flooded road during Hurricane Florence. The jury seemed to agree with him.

In his opening statement, Mr. Clements said, "It was stubbornness, and I hate to call someone stupid, but this was a stupid act that killed two innocent women."

On Thursday, Mr. Flood bowed his head as the first guilty verdict was read. As the other guilty verdicts were read out, he looked at the floor.

Horry County deputy stephen flood sentenced to 18 years in prison
Responders in Horry County, S.C., on Sept. 18, 2018, near where two mental health patients drowned while being taken to a mental health facility in a sheriff's van that was swept away by floodwaters caused by Hurricane Florence.

On Thursday, calls to Mr. Clements and Mr. Flood's lawyer, Jarrett Bouchette, were not answered right away.

During the trial, Mr. Bouchette said that Mr. Flood was just doing what he was told by his bosses to do, which is normal under state law, and that he was being made a "scapegoat" for this terrible accident.

On September 18, 2018, Mr. Flood, who was 66 at the time, and Joshua Bishop, the deputy who was with him, were asked to safely take the patients to a mental health center so they could get more treatment. At the time, Hurricane Florence was pouring rain on the Carolinas.

Ms. Green had schizophrenia, and Ms. Newton had asked to be taken to the hospital because she thought she was about to have a "spell," Ms. Newton's daughter, Allison, said in 2018.

A probable cause affidavit says that at the time, the officers were given a route that was thought to be safe. Mr. Clements said that they didn't follow the directions and instead took a route that they thought was faster.

Mr. Clements said that they drove through a barricade and onto a flooded Highway 76 in Marion County, which is in northeastern South Carolina.

According to the affidavit, the van broke down and was pushed into a guardrail by the Pee Dee River's rising water. In the back, a cage held the two women captive. Mr. Bouchette said that when water got into the van, Mr. Flood, who couldn't swim, called for help.

Mr. Clements said that Ms. Green and Ms. Newton watched the water come in slowly at first and then quickly.

"Can you imagine being in a cage while the water is rising?" he asked the jury. "It was horrible to be there." "It was rising, and they couldn't stop it."

The affidavit says that Mr. Bishop tried to save them but failed. He was able to save Mr. Flood, though. The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., said that Mr. Bishop will be tried at a later date. He was charged with two counts of unintentional manslaughter.

When help arrived later, the deputies were on top of the van. But it was too dark to dive and look for the women at that point. Their bodies were found the next day.

In the end, the two deputies were fired.

The Associated Press reported that Ms. Green's sister, Donnela Green-Johnson, said at the trial that Mr. Flood had broken the trust of Ms. Green, Ms. Newton, and the state of South Carolina.

"And for what?" she asked Circuit Court Judge William H. Seals Jr. "To save time."

Judge Seals gave Mr. Flood two consecutive sentences of five years for involuntary manslaughter and two consecutive sentences of four years for reckless homicide.

Mr. Clements said that Mr. Flood "put the victims in danger" when he drove through the water to save time.

"He didn't care about that risk. He just looked at what was in front of him and kept going," he said.

Mr. Clements said that when Mr. Flood decided to drive through the water, he looked back and saw that it was too late to turn around.

"He didn't care about any of those things because he wanted to save time," he said. "It turned out to be the way to death."

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