Police: Registered sex offender confesses to Clemson student slaying
Thursday, June 8, 2006
PICKENS, S.C. -- A registered sex offender confessed to killing a Clemson University student and to sexual assaults in Alabama and Tennessee, authorities said Wednesday.
Jerry Buck Inman, 35, was returned to South Carolina to face charges of murder, rape and kidnapping after his arrest late Tuesday near his parents' home in Dandridge, Tenn., said Jefferson County, Tenn., Sheriff David Davenport.
Inman spoke softly during an arraignment when questioned by a South Carolina magistrate who did not set bond.
DNA from Tiffany Marie Souers' off-campus apartment had led authorities to Inman two weeks after the 20-year-old civil engineering student was found wearing only a bra on the bedroom floor of her apartment. She was strangled with a bikini top and her wrists and ankles were bound.
"He didn't know the victim," Davenport said Wednesday. "It is our information he was driving around in the victim's neighborhood and saw her and he liked her looks."
In Rainsville, Ala., Inman was charged with attempted rape, burglary, robbery and theft of property in a May 23 incident in which authorities said he broke into a home and tried to attack a 24-year-old woman after she came home for lunch. Davenport said he expects Inman also will be charged with a May 24 rape in Sevierville, Tenn.
"It seems like he was just wandering around, finding vulnerable people -- women -- and preying on them and conducting sexual assaults and getting progressively worse," Davenport said. "This may be just the tip of the iceberg."
Investigators said they found several items related to the crimes in Inman's vehicle.
The victims identified Inman from tattoos shown on news reports, Davenport said. Florida prison records indicate Inman has several skull tattoos and an image of a bat tattooed on his neck.
"We interviewed him on all the offenses that people were relating to us," said Jefferson County Chief Deputy Bob McCoig. "He did confess to all three cases."
Inman arrived in Tennessee in 2005 after he was released from prison in Florida, where he served 16 years for sex offenses. Authorities said he had listed the Dandridge homes of his parents and a sister on a sex offender registry in Florida and North Carolina.
After coming to Tennessee, Inman got a job with Shular Contracting Inc. for about two months on a condo construction site in Pigeon Forge, said Phil Loeffler, company vice president. When he didn't show up for work about two weeks ago, he lost his job.
Inman's mother, Vera McArthur, told The Greenville News that her son is bipolar and often suicidal and had no idea South Carolina authorities were looking for him. She said he had been doing construction work in Tennessee, but didn't think he had been in South Carolina recently.
"I know he is overwhelmed by the attention this case has received so far," said Inman's attorney, Symmes Culbertson. "I think he's a little shell-shocked by everything that has gone on so far."
Inman's family didn't immediately return phone calls to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Souers' family in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, Mo., said they were relieved to learn Inman had been arrested.
But her mother, Bren Souers, said was angry a registered sex offender had easy access to victims, and any mental illness Inman might have "holds no credence for me." She said Inman should get the "most severe punishment they could possibly give him."
Associated Press writer Duncan Mansfield in Dandridge, Tenn., contributed to this report.