MARLBORO COUNTY, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Hollis Slade was lying on the floor of his bedroom in January 2021 with intense stomach pain. He’d had the pain for weeks, but it got so bad this time he grabbed his phone and called for help.
He wasn’t home alone. His wife, Joyce, was there but couldn’t do much to help.
“He’s in the back bedroom. He’s on the floor and I can’t get him up,” Joyce told the medic who first walked into the home. “I know, ma’am,” the medic said making his way into the house toward Slade.
Medics placed Hollis Slade onto a stretcher and rolled him into the back of an ambulance. Joyce Slade stood by and watched her husband, helpless and in pain, carted off to the hospital. Joyce, who suffers from severe dementia, often referred to her husband as the ‘love of her life,’ but her mental state stole her ability to recall how many years they’d spent together.
They were married for 41 years.
“He was such a bright, shining difference,” Joyce told a fireman who stayed behind to make sure she was cared for while medics rushed her husband to the hospital. “I can’t tell you how many years because my memory is not as long as it used to be.”
Hollis and Joyce Slade would never see one another again. At 67, six days short of his 68th birthday, Hollis Slade was dead.
We can report these conversations in detail because they were all captured on motion-detected security cameras outside the Slade home. Over the next 32 hours, those same cameras would capture images and videos that led the Slade family to ask for criminal investigations against a group of people the family thought were Hollis Slade’s friends.
ON SCENE WITHIN HOURS
Hollis Slade had around 30 noisy, needy dependents tucked into kennels in his backyard and at a hunting club near Marlboro County. He trained and bred fox hounds and competed in field trials across the Carolinas with them.
The kennels were part of the reason Slade had so many cameras around his property and inside his home. The other reason: to help keep watch of his wife. If Slade left home, he’d get notifications on his cell phone when a camera was activated.
When we went to Slade’s home in August, we counted at least eight cameras outside and two inside. Slade’s family provided us with hundreds of video clips from those cameras recorded the day of – and in the immediate days after – Slade’s death.
His wife’s dementia caused Slade to retire from his management role at a paper mill in Bennettsville a few years before. With his career over, his family said he’d immersed himself into his fox hounds and caring for his wife. Slade’s hunting and hound hobby brought friends his way.
One of those friends turned into a mentee and the two spent time together over the past few years.
Slade’s family identified the mentee as Matthew Tomlinson, a man in his 20s. On Jan. 23, the day Slade died, Tomlinson posted this message on his Facebook page within hours of Slade’s death, “I hate to inform everyone [sic] but earlier today one of the greatest men I know that helped me become who I am and long time [sic] and a lot of time spent with passed away. Hollis Slade you will truly be missed by so many [sic] my friend.”
The recordings show Tomlinson was the first person to drive up to the Slade home after the hospital informed Slade’s friends he’d died.
Surveillance video shows Tomlinson, his mother Charlotte Green, her boyfriend Ricky Gardner, and a man named Will Adams, who had worked with Slade at the paper mill, drive up together in Gardner’s truck. Adams spent most of his time there in the yard, in view of the cameras, placing calls to attorneys and at least one coroner.
Most of the Slade camera recordings produced clips between 10 to 15 seconds long. If the cameras didn’t detect movement, they’d stop recording. Some of the conversations captured are incomplete, others aren’t.
In one clip, Adams tells Green and Tomlinson he might have a way to unlock Slade’s cell phone, “My Verizon guy, he’s probably about to call me to see if we can get into his phone.” The recordings do not show why the group wanted to get into Slade’s phone or whether the group was able to unlock it.
The recordings also show Adams passing along legal advice he’d gotten from at least one attorney to Tomlinson, Green, and Gardner. The advice related to Slade’s assets. Adams appeared to indicate the “oldest sibling” would also have a say in the estate, but the recording ends before Adams finished the sentence.
Adams called Darlington County Coroner Todd Hardee to inquire about having Slade’s body released to him and the group. Hardee confirmed that detail to FOX 46. Marlboro County Coroner Tim Brown also confirmed Adams’ attempts to have the body released, claiming Slade “had no family” to attend to the estate or Joyce Slade’s care.
But Slade did have family and the recordings show the group knew it. Adams called Slade’s mother in one of the recordings following the call with one of the coroners. Slade’s family later confirmed they found out about Slade’s death through Adams’ contact with a family member on Facebook around 5 p.m. the day he died.
The recordings make apparent the group knew Slade’s wife was not able to be left alone and that she could not handle the estate alone. “We broke the news to her, but she has to have a caretaker 24/7,” Adams told Bennettsville attorney Jason Luck in a call with him.
“Todd (Hardee) says he’s going to be able to get the body released to me so I can get Jeff Snider to come get it. So, we’re waiting on Todd to pull his tricks there,” Adams tells attorney Luck in the call. “What’s happening now is we’ve got a vulnerable adult that needs protection,” Luck said before the recording stopped.
Adams and the group were also the ones who told Joyce Slade about her husband’s death, “We already told her within the last hour, 15 times that Hollis has passed away, she can’t remember,” Adams told attorney Luck in that call.
Despite contacting Slade’s mother by phone, the group continued looking for a document showing how Slade wanted his property distributed, “I just don’t know if he ever finalized the s—t,” Adams said as the group stood in Slade’s driveway. “Maybe he didn’t,” Gardner responded.
The cameras captured Gardner and Adams going through Slade’s pickup truck while Tomlinson and Green looked on, “What the hell is that? Christmas presents,” Adams asked standing inside Slade’s rear passenger door.
“To Will from Hollis,” Adams laughed, “No, it says to Hollis from Bobby.” Gardner, leaning into Slade’s driver’s side door as Adams dug through the truck through the passenger’s door, filled Tomlinson in on what they’d found, “He got a whole truck full of Christmas presents people gave him that he ain’t opened yet.”
The video doesn’t show whether anything was removed from the truck.
The recordings later show the group standing by Slade’s truck discussing property that belonged to the man, “It’s kind of like, he got $2,000 worth of tracking collars sitting in there,” Gardner tells the group.
“What about all the money in the bank,” Green asks. “I hate to leave $2,000 worth of tracking collars and two Garmin’s sitting there,” Gardner said referring to the dozens of tracking collars Slade had hanging on a rack inside his front door.
Video recordings captured the next day showed Gardner carrying a large plastic container out the front door; the same door where Slade had the rack. Slade had a document on his computer showing an accounting for 43 collars. The document shows 12 collars belonged to Gardner.
The document is undated.
The conversation soon turned to Slade’s debts and how that would be paid for and then turned back to Gardner’s concerns about Slade’s property, “I swear I hate to leave all this,” Gardner said as the group stood in the garage door. “It’s going to be sad if somebody else comes–” Green said before Gardner interrupted, “His f—ing brother get—know he didn’t want him to have it. I know he didn’t want him to have it, I heard him say it.”
The group left the Slade home for the night as Joyce Slade’s caretaker agreed to stay the night with her. When the sun rose the next morning in Marlboro County, Hollis Slade’s cameras would capture 432 more video clips that led the Slade family to file a criminal complaint with the Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office.
The first person at Hollis Slade’s home the morning after his death was Ricky Gardner. Slade’s cameras recorded Gardner walking through the garage and to the back door where he met with Linda Hood.
Slade hired Hood sometime in 2017 to help care for his wife. The video clip recorded immediately after Gardner’s arrival is a clip showing Hood leaving out the back door. Hood got into her Dodge truck and drove away.
Gardner was alone with Joyce Slade.
Multiple video clips show Gardner walking out of the house with various items. The videos show him walking out of the back door, through the garage and putting property from inside the home into his truck. One of the recordings shows Gardner and another man carrying stacks of black five-gallon buckets out of the house and loading them into Gardner’s truck.
In one of the videos, Gardner had a Garmin tracking collar package in one hand. It’s the same tracking collar the Slade family would later accuse the group of stealing from the Slade home. Several other videos depict Gardner walking out of the house with property and loading it into his truck.
This all happened while Hollis Slade’s sister was on her way from Indiana to her brother’s Marlboro County home. “It’s Hollis’ sister, but they on the way. They supposed to be here this evening, 7, 8 o’clock or something,” the recordings capture Gardner telling a woman on the phone.
Gardner said he and the others were “sitting with Mrs. Joyce,” and “cleaning up.” Gardner also mentioned in the recordings he was collecting items to take care of Slade’s hound dogs.
Soon after the caretaker left that morning and Gardner loaded his truck, the recordings show the next person to arrive at the Slade home was a woman named Tammy Bullock. Bullock once worked with Hollis Slade at the paper mill in town. When she showed up to his home on Jan. 24, 2021, she was the appointed deputy probate judge in the Marlboro County Probate Judge’s Office.
But Bullock did not hold an oath of office when she was at Slade’s home in January.
With Bullock at the home, Gardner and others continued carrying property out of the house and loading it into his truck. The recordings show Tammy Bullock’s Cadillac parked in front of the house that morning and it was still there when Slade’s family arrived that night.
The two video cameras Hollis installed inside his home never activated during these recordings. Slade’s family confirmed the cameras were operational but could not explain why Slade’s recording system failed to capture video and audio from inside during the time the group was there.
The outside cameras, however, recorded conversations that indicated what was happening inside: the group was searching for Slade’s will. In an abbreviated recording, Bullock is on the phone standing in Slade’s driveway when she said, “His will. Because we don’t know his sister…”
The recording did not capture the beginning or end of the call.
“We all taking turns rummaging through stuff and sitting with her (Joyce) and trying to make her (Joyce) eat,” Bullock told someone in a phone call captured on the security camera recordings. Bullock also acknowledged in the call that Slade’s sister, Beth Slade-Boling, was on the way to the home.
Bullock was also depicted in the video recordings going through Slade’s truck with one video showing Bullock handing Green what appeared to be a checkbook.
None of the people named in this report would agree to an interview and none have been charged with any crime related to the allegations detailed in this report. The only response we received from any of the group came from Ricky Gardner who referred FOX 46 to his attorney, James Cox, to schedule the interview.
Cox never returned our message.
‘I WAS MAD AS HELL’
When Beth Slade-Boling got to her brother’s home in Bennettsville on Jan. 24, the first people she met at the top of the driveway were Charlotte Green and Tammy Bullock. Slade-Boling was relieved to know someone who could help guide her through the probate process was right there on scene.
“I actually thought, okay, God’s providing what I’m going to need to get to get through this, because this is going to be hard,” Slade-Boling told FOX 46 Chief Investigator Jody Barr.
“In the midst of a little bit of greeting conversation, and then she says, well, ‘I’m the probate judge.’ And I say, ‘Okay, good, we’re probably going to need to work together then.’” Slade-Boling didn’t know Bullock wasn’t the probate judge.
In fact, Bullock wasn’t sworn in as the county’s deputy probate judge until March 15th – nearly two months later.
Slade-Boling said she had no reason to suspect anything of any of the people at her brother’s home. She thought they were his grieving friends and were there to help the family plan the funeral and to see that what belonged to her brother was collected and accounted for so his wife would be taken care of through his estate.
That all changed as soon as Slade-Boling had a moment alone with Joyce Slade’s caretaker, Linda Hood.
“The caretaker, who had taken care of my sister-in-law that night, said to me there were some things that were taken by one of the individuals that you need to be sure you get back,” Slade-Boling said, “I asked her what those things were and she said there’s a Ziploc bag full of cash. There’s the truck keys, there’s a handgun, and Hollis’s checkbook.”
“I was kind of surprised that all those things had been taken,” Slade-Boling told Barr, “Did she say who took them,” Barr asked. “Yes, Charlotte Green.”
The video recordings show Hood was likely telling the truth. Green was standing behind a truck in the driveway when one of the recordings captured her telling the group, “I got that pistol out that drawer.” The drawer was the exact spot where Hood said she hid the money and the gun.
“I took Mrs. Joyce’s money and Hollis’ money and I put it in a sandwich bag, one of the quarts—the gallons—it was the big ones,” Hood told FOX 46. Hood used her hands to show the size of the bag, which was a gallon sized bag. “It was one of the big ones and it was loaded with money,” Hood said.
Hood said Slade kept stacks of cash around the house.
“I took all the money and put it in a bag and stuck it in the middle of her (Joyce’s) dresser. I went back Sunday morning, Charlotte (Green) told me she got all the money, they got Mrs. Joyce’s pistol, it was a .38 and a lot of other stuff,” Hood said in an August interview outside her home in Marlboro County.
Slade-Boling said she messaged Green asking her to return the things Hood said she’d taken. The next day, Slade-Boling said Ricky Gardner returned the things Hood said the group had taken.
“At this point, I still hadn’t figured out – we hadn’t looked at all the videos. My daughter had begun saving the videos from the security cameras. But at this point, I mean really, we were busy the whole time. We didn’t have time to watch hundreds of videos,” Slade-Boling said.
“I will tell you what you told the family that was missing, they got back,” Barr said to Hood during the August interview. “No, they got the money back—a little bit of money…and the pistol. They got a little bit of money because she (Slade-Boling) showed me that bag and the jewelry box. They got the money that was in the jewelry box; no, all that money wasn’t in there.”
“I’d been there four years. I knew Mr. Hollis and Mrs. Joyce like my mama and daddy. Me and Hollis was about the same age, but we had a bond. For four years you working with somebody, but I knew a lot of stuff got gone and I told Beth and I was mad as hell,” Hood said.
The recordings show at least one person in the group was at the Slade home throughout the day and into the night the day after Hollis Slade’s death. With the caretaker gone through the day, Joyce Slade was left in the care of whomever was inside with her at the time.
The group knew Slade-Boling was headed to South Carolina from Indiana and that she’d be there around dinner time.
“It’s Hollis’ sister, they on the way. They supposed to be here this evening, 7, 8 o’clock or something,” Ricky Gardner tells a woman in a phone call in one of the recordings. Gardner claimed he and the others were “cleaning up” inside the Slade home and taking “dog stuff” to use to care for Slade’s hounds.
The cameras continued rolling throughout the day. Just before Slade-Boling’s arrival, the cameras outside Slade’s garage door captured Bullock, Green, and Tomlinson having a conversation about a plan for when the family arrived.
“I told her (Linda Hood) I got that money. I said I’m not going to leave that money sitting in that house for complete strangers to come and we not know what’s going on with it,” Green tells Bullock in the recording. Bullock responded, but the audio is not clear enough to detail exactly what she said.
“I said, you got to get paid, I said (inaudible) got to get paid, I said (inaudible)…” Green continued.
Bullock then refers to “that paper” and pulls something out of her pocket to show to Green. “It’s yours, just keep it,” Green told Bullock and Bullock put the paper back into her pocket. “It says return on it,” Bullock tells Green and Tomlinson, “It’s almost $200,000,” Green responded.
Bullock then turned to Tomlinson telling him, “She don’t need to know that,” gesturing toward the house the video showed. The video shows Green agreeing with Bullock’s statement to Tomlinson.
“But when they get here, we need to greet them, we need to be super—,” Green said before that recording ended.
The three then begin talking about what Slade’s family might decide about where Slade’s body would be taken, “And I don’t foresee them taking him to Arkansas, but he’s been here all these years. I don’t foresee them saying, ‘Well, we gone take him back home. But you don’t never know,” Green tells the group. So, if anything comes up and we need to; let them know that his secretary of the past 30 years is now a probate judge here, if they need me,” Bullock tells Green and Tomlinson.
“You just need to be nice. We don’t need to talk finances; we don’t need to say we turned the house upside down today trying to find the will, we just don’t even need to—we just don’t know what to do at this point,” Green said before the recording ended.
“But we just need to be super, super nice,” Green said in the recording.
Slade-Boling confirmed one of the first things Bullock said to her was that she was the Marlboro County Probate Judge, but Bullock wasn’t. Judge Mark Heath is the county’s elected probate judge and had won election in the November 2018 general election.
Bullock’s oath of office shows she didn’t have an oath administered until March 15th, nearly two months after that conversation with Slade-Boling in Hollis Slade’s driveway.
Slade-Boling said she confided and trusted Bullock to help her with her brother’s estate. That’s until the caretaker – and those security camera videos – gave her reason to doubt the group who’d spent the past day and a half at her brother’s home.
We messaged every person named in this report seeking comment for this report. No one ever responded except Ricky Gardner. Gardner responded to a Facebook message telling Barr to contact his attorney for comment.
Gardner’s attorney never returned our message.
Our investigation also uncovered evidence that Probate Judge Heath knew about the allegations against Bullock within days of Slade-Boling finding out from Hood about property taken from the home and about the video recordings.
“This is actually the text I sent him to give me a call back,” Bobby Norris said showing his phone with a Jan. 29 text exchange with Judge Heath.
Norris said he got Heath on the phone an hour or so later and told him what happened at Slade’s home. Norris said he knew Heath was the elected judge and had not heard news of Heath’s resignation, “The girl’s out here saying she’s the probate judge…I didn’t know that was going on; new one on me and I’ve been here all my life and I pretty well know what’s going on in the town,” Norris said.
“If you’re imitating who you’re not and you’re not in there, you’ve got a problem,” Norris told FOX 46. Heath, Norris said, assured him he’d investigate the allegations.
But Norris said he never heard back from Judge Heath on the outcome of the judge’s investigation. The next bit of news Norris got regarding Tammy Bullock was a Facebook post showing Heath swearing Bullock into office nearly two months after their call.
We emailed, called, texted and sent messages to Bullock asking for an interview. We waited a week for Bullock, but Bullock never answered.
After a week passed, we decided to take the interview to Bullock at the county courthouse. As soon as Bullock spotted our camera crews she sped away from the courthouse. Bullock would return minutes later as a passenger in Judge Heath’s car and a Bennettsville Police Department escort up to the backdoor of the courthouse.
We went inside the courthouse to attempt the interview when we met Judge Heath at his office’s reception window. Heath would not answer questions regarding the allegations into Bullock, claiming there were no allegations “on file” and that he was “not aware of them, haven’t been advised of them.”
Heath referred us to Bullock’s criminal attorney, Wade “Ronnie” Crow for comment.
“I’ve instructed the deputy probate judge not to make any statements. She has cooperated fully with law enforcement on the county level and SLED,” Crow told Barr in a Sept. 24 phone call. Our investigation found Crow knew Joyce Slade and had worked as her court-appointed guardian ad litem until May.
Crow would not answer questions about whether his work for Joyce Slade and now with Tammy Bullock constituted a potential conflict of interest, “Now, listen, I don’t discuss those matters of the probate court. I have been an attorney for over 50 years and there’s certain things that are confidential,” Crow shouted into the phone. “I’m asking you about a potential conflict of interest here,” Barr said to Crow, “I done answered all the questions,” Crow responded.
“Listen, I don’t have to answer any of your questions,” Crow said before hanging up the phone.
Criminal allegations against Bullock were filed with the Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 28 after Slade Boling, her daughter, and Marlboro County Coroner Tim Brown all met with Sheriff Charles Lemon inside his office. The family told the sheriff about what happened at the Slade home, who was involved and what was alleged to have been taken.
Sheriff Lemon assured the family he’d investigate. Months later, on July 8, the State Law Enforcement Division confirmed it received a request from the sheriff’s office to investigate the allegations.
“Did Bobby Norris not call you and have a discussion with you on Jan. 29th,” Barr asked Heath inside the courthouse on Sept. 1. “No comment,” Heath responded. “But you swore her in on March 15, six weeks after the initial allegations were made to you…,” Barr asked Heath, “Ok, good to see you,” Heath responded and walked away from the interview.
Heath, called the allegations we asked him about “hearsay,” and said he’d wait to “hear it in a courtroom.” We informed Heath the allegations we asked him about were documented in video and offered to show him the recordings.
Heath ignored the offer.
SLED: This is a ‘civil matter’
On July 28, Fourth Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers told the Slade family he would not be involved in the investigation of, or any potential prosecution involving Tammy Bullock.
Rogers confirmed in a Sept. 3 phone call with Barr that he referred the sheriff’s office to SLED and that he “can’t be involved” because of his office’s “relationship” with the probate court. Rogers also confirmed his office did not receive any evidence or documents from the Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office concerning the investigation.
The Slade family provided written communication with SLED agent Lt. Tina Carter. The communications show that as of July 16, SLED had not assigned an agent to the case, but that SLED had received documents from the sheriff’s office.
After a phone call with SLED in early August, Slade-Boling said she didn’t hear back from the agency until more than a month later.
When we asked SLED for a status update on the investigation in late August, the agency said agents had “conducted a preliminary inquiry,” but “determined this to be a civil matter and therefore we did not open an official criminal investigation,” SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby wrote in a Sept. 21 email to Barr.
“If at any point credible evidence is brought forward showing possible criminal violations, we will evaluate and consider reopening the inquiry,” Crosby wrote.
Slade-Boling said SLED informed her attorney the family would need to file a claim in the probate court in Marlboro County to have their criminal allegations handled. SLED also confirmed to the Slade family the agent assigned to the case had not reviewed the video recordings from the Slade home after consulting with the attorney general’s office.
SLED, the family said, claimed the agency needed a search warrant to review the recordings but the agency did not present a warrant to the family. Slade-Boling had previously provided SLED the internet link to the recordings provided to FOX 46 in July.
SLED confirmed to FOX 46 the agency met with the attorney general’s office on August 31 and was told the allegations did not warrant a criminal investigation. We filed a Freedom of Information Act request with SLED on Sept. 20, seeking information as to how SLED handled the complaint.
A SLED attorney denied our request on Sept. 22, claiming “any and all records responsive to your request” are not public, and that releasing the records would “interfere with SLED’s prospective law enforcement action” regarding the investigation. SLED’s denial letter indicated the agency considered the Bullock investigation anything but a civil matter.
When we pressed SLED for an answer, the agency acknowledged a “miscommunication” internally and told FOX 46 a criminal investigation into the Bullock allegations was opened August 31. The agency told the Slade family last week agents would be able to review the video files contained in this report.
SLED did not give a timeline on how long its investigation could take.