HAMPTON, SC (Oct. 18, 2018) – A 30-year-old Estill man has been convicted of attempted murder in connection with an incident in which he shot his pregnant neighbor as she stood near her apartment complex in 2015.
Benjamin Jerome Blake, 30, was found guilty Wednesday in Hampton County General Sessions Court of one count of attempted murder, two counts of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and possession of a weapon during commission of a violent crime.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
“This is a perfect example of why this sort of senseless violence cannot be tolerated,” said Hunter Swanson of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “This woman and her unborn child could easily have lost their lives, all because Benjamin Blake wanted to settle a score with a gun.”
The woman was standing not far from her home in Fairwood Apartments, chatting with a friend, who was seated in his parked car along Lawton Avenue in Estill, just south of Grayson Street. Blake, who lived with his father in a home behind the apartment complex, walked past the couple, continuing down the road toward First Estill Baptist Church.
A few moments later, they heard several gunshots and the victim felt a burning sensation under her left arm, near her left breast.
Down the street, Blake had gotten into a confrontation in front of the church with a man with whom he had a running disagreement. Witnesses say Blake then drew a .380 handgun and fired at the man at least four times as he tried to flee. Blake did not hit his intended target, but one bullet struck the victim. She was flown to Savannah Memorial Hospital, where her baby was delivered by cesarean section, about two weeks prematurely.
Both the baby and her mother survived.
Blake fled before law-enforcement officers arrived, but witnesses identified him. Officers recovered six .380 shell casings, and the slug taken from the victim’s body was also fired from a .380.
Circuit Court Judge Kristi Curtis handed down the sentence.
Swanson leads the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit, which was formed in late 2017 to prosecute criminal sexual conduct, domestic violence and other crimes against vulnerable populations. The unit has earned convictions against 48 defendants since the unit was created.