BEAUFORT, SC (January 21, 2020) – A Burton man has been sent to prison on murder and arson charges for his role in the killing of a disabled neighbor, who was slayed shortly after filling her prescriptions for pain medication.
John Dontue Priester, 27, admitted Tuesday that he helped murder 56-year-old Teresa Seigler in December 2016, then tried to conceal the crime by setting fire to her Burton mobile home. He was sentenced to 30 years for murder and 20 years for second-degree arson. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
Priester was the third and final defendant convicted for Seigler’s murder by the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
“Despite numerous health problems that caused her nearly constant pain, Teresa had a kind heart and was known for helping people down on their luck – people like John Priester and the other defendants,” said Assistant Solicitor Hunter Swanson, who prosecuted all three defendants. “John Priester, Brian Walls and Courtney Brock would have done about anything to keep their drug bender going. That includes robbing and killing a woman who had never been anything but kind and helpful to them.
“Then, John Priester tried to cover it all up with a can of gasoline and a lighter.”
Walls,38, was tried for murder and convicted in April 2019. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Brock, 25, received a 30-year sentence after a jury found her guilty in October. Priester was originally to be tried in September, but proceedings were delayed by Hurricane Dorian.
All three defendants were among the residents of a mobile home two doors down from Seigler, who lived alone and sometimes needed a scooter to get around. She often gave her neighbors food and allowed them to shower in her home when their utilities had been disconnected. Seigler had health problems and took several prescription pain medications. She was killed just days after receiving a monthly disability check and using some of the money to fill her prescriptions.
Firefighters were called to Seigler’s home on Falls Road on Dec. 7, 2016, to stop a blaze at her mobile home. Inside, they found what appeared to be a body rolled in a blanket and bound in duct tape. Once outside, the first-responders cut through the tape, unraveled the blanket and discovered Seigler’s dead body. Like the blankets in which she was wrapped, her hands were bound in duct tape.
In the trials of Walls and Brock, a forensic pathologist from the University of South Carolina testified that Seigler did not die in the fire; rather, she was likely beaten to death.
Shortly before the fire, a witness spotted Priester walking toward Seigler’s home and carrying a red gasoline can, similar to one arson investigators found just outside Siegler’s bedroom door.
In previous trials, multiple witnesses described a chaotic household and frequent drug use in the home occupied by Walls, Brock and Priester. One witness also testified that, around the time of Siegler’s death, Walls tried unsuccessfully to solicit her help in stealing his neighbor’s drugs.
Walls’ DNA was found on a portion of the duct tape that bound Seigler’s body, which also contained Brock’s palm print and Priester’s fingerprint. Walls and Brock were apprehended in Marlboro County, near the North Carolina border, in a vehicle that had been reported stolen. Among the items found in the car were Seigler’s prescription pill bottles, a roll of duct tape and Seigler’s debit card, which had Priester’s DNA on it.
Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen handed down Priester’s sentence.
Swanson is the leader of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit and a member of its Career Criminal Unit, which prosecutes the circuit’s most violent and habitual offenders. The Career Criminal Unit has earned convictions against 355 of 370 defendants it has prosecuted since the team’s formation in late 2008.