Final Disrespects

FINAL DISRESPECTS: One-hour special report weaves the Marlboro County judge, sheriff tale



MARLBORO COUNTY, SC (WJZY) — I was finishing an interview with Patrick Norris at his Chesterfield County fuel company last August when a black Ford van came bouncing through the gate. A man with white hair hopped out and a woman followed.

Bobby and Laurie Norris provided the initial tip that led to our ‘Final Disrespects’ investigation during this August 11, 2021 conversation inside a Chesterfield County fuel company. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

“That’s my deddy,” Patrick told me as his father, Bobby, blasted through the conference room door. “Where you from anyway?” Norris asked in his loud and booming voice. “I was born in Hartsville, but I’m working in Charlotte now,” I told him.

“What kind of news do you do; you into corruption?” Bobby asked in his eastern South Carolina drawl. I told him that’s the sort of news that gets me out of bed every morning.

“Son, you ain’t gonna believe this,” Norris said. Bobby Norris started telling me the story of a Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge – and her friends – who showed up to a dead man’s home within hours of his death in January. “People started taking things out the man’s house with his wife inside,” Norris explained.

The man’s name was Hollis Slade and Bobby Norris lived a few houses down from him and his wife, Joyce, who suffers from severe dementia. By now, Bobby was nearly yelling as he continued unfolding his story.

Norris kept mentioning the name Tammy Bullock. It’s a name I’d never heard before and someone I couldn’t find with a quick internet search. Bullock told the family she was the county probate judge and she wasn’t, according to Norris. I found Bullock’s Facebook page and a post showing her swearing in, standing beside Marlboro County’s elected Probate Judge, Mark Heath.

Hollis Slade died unexpectedly on Jan. 23, 2021 after a medical call to his Bennettsville home. Slade’s family requested an autopsy, but Marlboro County Coroner Tim Brown declined to order the autopsy, according to Beth Slade-Boling. Slade was cremated following a funeral service held Jan. 29, 2021. (Source: Hollis Slade Estate)

That part appeared to check out.

As with any tip, whether you can verify even the smallest detail goes a long way to assessing someone’s credibility. Even as Norris talked, I was listening with one ear and running cursory searches with the other. Some of the things he told me I could quickly verify, some of the things I knew there was no way I’d ever be able to substantiate.

Although I was completely intrigued, I thought about how I was going to break it to Norris that it’s likely I’d never be able to do anything with this. Those are never easy conversations to have.

I decided to be direct.

“This all sounds incredible, but I’ll never be able to verify or prove any of this,” I told him. “Oh, yes you will,” Bobby shouted, “It’s all on video!” And it was. Slade’s family provided us a Google Drive folder with somewhere around 1,500 video clips from the weekend of Slade’s death.

Those videos also captured audio. The recordings started from the time Marlboro County medics arrived at Slade’s home, to Slade being carted off to the ambulance, to four of Slade’s friends showing up to his home within hours of him leaving in the back of an ambulance.

The recordings captured conversations between those friends at Slade’s home while it was being plundered and calls to county coroners trying to get custody of Slade’s body. Over the course of the next 24 hours, those videos would capture the arrival of Tammy Bullock and admissions by some in the group of a gun and money taken, the hunt for Slade’s will, and a deputy probate judge admitting in a phone call to “rummaging” through Slade’s home and recordings showing people leaving Slade’s home with things that belonged to Hollis Slade.

Our ‘Final Disrespects’ investigation led to the resignation of the county deputy probate judge, Hollis Slade’s probate case being moved out of Marlboro County, the sheriff’s indictment and suspension from office, a State Law Enforcement Division investigation and a South Carolina Supreme Court investigation.

And our investigation is far from finished.

Watch our one-hour’ Final Disrespects’ special Friday night on FOX 46 News at 10.

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