WALTERBORO, SC (Oct. 13, 2022) – A Cottageville man with a history of harassing people at a rural cemetery in Colleton County has been found guilty of first-degree assault and battery.
Sheldon Leonard Rhodes, 54, of Sherman Lane was found guilty Wednesday of four counts of first-degree assault and battery, stemming from a May 12, 2019, shooting at the Burr Hill Cemetery in Cottageville. He was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison, suspended to a five-year active sentence, followed by five years of probation.
A suspended sentence means the defendant must successfully serve his active sentence and complete probation or face serving the entire sentence.
“Mr. Rhodes intimidated and tried to prevent mourners from lawfully entering a cemetery by putting up roadblocks and then firing a weapon,” said Michelle Hart of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “Mr. Rhodes is dangerous. This reckless encounter could have ended very differently. Thankfully, it didn’t.”
During two days of testimony, a Colleton County General Session jury heard from 14 witnesses, some of them whom described Rhodes’ antagonistic behaviors as “ongoing and relentless.”
On at least four other occasions, Rhodes threated to shoot or kill visitors at the cemetery, including members of the same family. Rhodes claims he owns Sherman Lane, a dirt road leading to the cemetery, and the cemetery. These parcels of land do not belong to Rhodes.
On April 30, 2017, Rhodes threatened to kill a visitor to the cemetery if the man ever returned. Just more than two years later, Rhodes tried to make good on his promise by shooting at the same man and three of his family members on May 12, 2019, charges for which he was convicted Wednesday.
On that day, the family of three brothers and a cousin went to the cemetery to place flowers on their parents’ graves. Instead, they were met with logs blocking the cemetery’s entrance. Rhodes, who lives behind the cemetery, approached the cemetery, and said, “I’ll be right back; I’m going to get my gun.” Moments later, bullets started flying from the wood line.
In a separate incident on March 6, 2018, Rhodes told a man to leave the property while putting his hand behind his back. “I got mine,” Rhodes told the man, insinuating he was armed with a gun.
Rhodes also threatened to shoot two Steedley Monument Works employees on two different occasions while they were working in the cemetery. He told them, he would “bury them where they stood.”
Rhodes’ criminal history includes convictions from Georgia for financial transaction card theft and theft by taking (1990); two counts of simple battery (1994); and two counts of third-degree assault and battery (2017, in South Carolina).
Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen handed down the sentence.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case. Michelle Hart has been with the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office since 2019. She primarily prosecutes cases in Colleton County.