Tiffany Souers: Suspect still at large

For regular readers expecting my regular tales here, I must apologize. See, based on the number of e-mails I have received in the past few days, the interest in the Tiffany Souers murder investigation goes far beyond the Blue Ridge Mountain range. Like me, many people find themselves working scenarios in their heads. I suspect, like me, that they realize there are scores of professionals working right now who have had the same ideas and are trying to figure out how it all fits together. We are voyeurs, I suppose. Nonetheless, my past profession connects me to this case with a very, very thin thread and, as such, I find myself thinking about it an undue amount.

Based on my past relationship with Bob Ariail, 13th Circuit Solicitor, I fully expected an announcement by the end of today (Monday) that a suspect was in custody and on his way to a secure jail. Ariail seemed exceptinally confident–confident enough that, if the cops didn’t already have a suspect in custody, they were sitting on somebody and just waiting for the right moment to pick him up. Ariail’s statements to the press are almost always extremely measured. That is, if he’s telling the press anything, it’s already happened or in the process of happening. Ariail’s confidence in the Friday news conference (during which the bank video still photos were released) gave me a good feeling that the investigation was nearing its conclusion.

With the weekend now gone by, my confidence has waned, if only slightly. The reports coming from Pickens County sound like the cops are settling in for the long-haul. And frankly, the long-haul has rarely proven to be a good trip in local investigations. Looking back at some of the highest profile cases in the area, many of those that stretched past a couple of weeks still remain unsolved. The Blue Ride Bank triple murder. The Superbike Motorsports massacre. The case of missing college student Jason Knapp. And that’s not to mention the still-open cases of Brooke Holsonback and Norsaadah Husain. It’s not a local problem, per se. It’s the whole “First 48” syndrome.

All of that said, with Ariail and SLED (that’s the State Law Enforcement Division) on the case, I still have as much confidence as I can have in the solvability of the case. If the case can be solved, it will be. And frankly, this seems to be a solvable murder. The killer was simply too stupid to not get caught. All of this leads me to what is likely happening behind the scenes right now.

Beattie AshmoreThe first option is now the one I consider the least likely: Somebody is already in custody or is about to be. A lot of people got extremely worked up about the arrest of Stephen David Kudika Jr., a Clemson graduate student who lived near Tiffany Souers and was arrested for sexual assault. Many people–even me, for a time–speculated Kudika would eventually be tied to the Souers case. It now seems Kudika just got caught for his misdeeds–or, alleged misdeeds–at a very unfortunate time. He hired Beattie Ashmore (seen left) to represent him. Ashmore is a former assistant U.S. Attorney and now a top defense attorney. If I ever found myself in trouble, Beattie would be my first call. Ashmore has publicly stated that Kudika’s arrest and the Souers case are “unrelated.” Even more telling is the fact that Kudika bonded out of jail for $30,000, a relatively small sum. If the Ariail or the cops had much worry Kudika was involved in Souers’ death, I suspect a wink and an eyebrow raise could’ve secured a much higher bond. Then again, I’m simply speculating.

The second option is probably the most likely right now. There is probably a short-list of likely suspects and the top investigators are working that list really hard. While this team is putting together its case against their man, another group of investigators is doing its due dilligence by running down phone tips and dead-end leads. The problem for the public–and the good thing for the cops–is that this strategy gives an appearance of ineffectiveness. To anyone who only gets their news from the local TV stations or newspapers, it would appear the cops are chasing their tails. I’m not ready to believe that’s actually the case. More likely, there are about ten guys who have offered up DNA samples which will be compared (in decidely anti-television drama speed) with samples taken from the crime scene. While this tough work is being done, the cops are performing in the manner the TV viewing public expects them to. They are answering phones, scurrying around, etc.

Finally, there is the third option. There is, of course, the possibility that Souers’ killer is smarter than people think. Even if he was stupid enough to try six different ATMs–unsuccessfully–he at least disguised himself well enough that no one would recognize him. If he’s smarter than we think, then there is always the possibility that yet another will go unsolved in Upstate South Carolina.

For the sake of Tiffany’s family and friends, I certainly hope that’s not the case.

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Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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    It’s a shame you’re not covering this story.

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