A McDuffie County grand jury has indicted a 51-year-old Dearing businessman on manslaughter charges in the death of an elderly man whom authorities initially thought died from an accidental fall in his home earlier this year.
The victim was a U.S. Army veteran, who had done two tours of duty in Vietnam.
The two-count indictment was returned against H. Peter Bolia, owner of C&T Automotive on the Augusta Highway near Dearing, according to records released last Thursday by McDuffie County Superior Court Clerk Connie Cheatham. Mr. Bolia, retired from the Army after 20 years, was indicted on charges of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
He is accused of causing the death of Louie Williford, 65, of 188 South Railroad Street, Dearing on April 2, of this year. A bench warrant for Mr. Bolia's arrest was issued by Toombs Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Roger W. Dunaway, Jr. after the indictment charges were handed down by grand jurors.
McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Investigator Al Reeves and Deputy Jared Land took Mr. Bolia into custody at his business about 5:45 p.m. last Thursday. He was taken to the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center in Thomson.
"When we got there, I told Bolia that this day was coming," Investigator Reeves said, noting that Mr. Bolia replied, '"Yep, I've been waiting on you,'"
Investigator Reeves, who spearheaded the probe, described the death of Mr. Williford as "a crime of passion," saying Mr. Bolia and Mr. Williford's 34-year-old fiancÃ©e Wendy Hill were having an affair.
"We originally thought this case was accidental," Investigator Reeves said until family members and another person talked with authorities further.
Authorities began looking at the case differently after Sgt. John James of the Thomson Police Department telephoned Investigator Reeves on March 19. Sgt. James said he and other family members were suspicious about circumstances that had led up to his uncle being hospitalized.
Mr. Williford, a retired supervisor at the Uniroyal plant in Thomson and a carpenter, received two hematomas to his head following a fall at his home on March 16, Investigator Reeves said. One of those injuries developed into a bleeder on the brain, which eventually led to Mr. Williford's death, Investigator Reeves said.
The victim hosted a party at his home on the night of March 16. Several family members and friends attended, including Mr. Bolia, the investigator explained. At some point during the party, Mr. Williford reportedly asked Mr. Bolia to leave and he did, Investigator Reeves said. Mr. Bolia reportedly returned to the Williford home residence later that night, between 11:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m., "in hopes of talking with Ms. Hill," the investigator said.
At the time, Mr. Williford and Ms. Hill were in bed.
"They heard a noise," Investigator Reeves said. "Williford got up and left the master bedroom and went into the living room."
A struggle ensued in the darkened room between Mr. Williford and Mr. Bolia, Ms. Hill later told the investigator.
"She said she heard a loud bump, as Williford went to the floor," Investigator Reeves said.
Mr. Bolia fled the residence and drove away.
Mr. Williford was injured, which led to Ms. Hill calling 911, requesting an ambulance. She never asked for a deputy, however, Investigator Reeves said.
"He had a closed head wound and refused treatment," the investigator explained.
Instead of getting better, Mr. Williford's condition gradually worsened during the next several hours. Ms. Hill ended up calling local EMS personnel to the Williford home again on March 17. Mr. Williford, who was unconscious at the time, was taken by ambulance to the emergency room of McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson where he was admitted as a patient for a day and a half.
He then was airlifted by helicopter to Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta where he stayed several days following emergency surgery.
Mr. Williford, who never regained consciousness, was transferred to the Uptown Veterans Administration Hospital in Augusta where he died on April 2.
His body was exhumed at Savannah Valley Memorial Gardens earlier this summer so authorities could determine the exact cause of his death. It was revealed afterwards that Mr. Williford had died from blunt force trauma.
Investigator Reeves said he and other law enforcement persons have searched for a weapon, but had not found one.
"We're still investigating this case right now," Investigator Reeves said.