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Crime: Murrells Inlet mourns murder victim
Fishing boats set out on a rising tide from docks along Murrells Inlet an hour before sunset. Instead of rods, many in the boats held the stems of flowers. It was the “last cast” for Jessica Lynn Hill, the owner of a bait shop who authorities say was murdered last week by her ex-husband.
In the first of about 30 boats were Hill’s three children – ages 11, 8 and 7 – and her mother, Sharon Doehner. The procession made its way down the main channel to Garden City before returning to the creek near the Veterans Pier, which was lined with spectators.
Remembrances came over the VHF radio. “We’re all family here in Murrells Inlet,” one boater told Hill’s family. “You’re all our family now.”
It was just down the creek, at Perry’s Bait and Tackle, where firefighters were called around 9:45 a.m. Friday. They extinguished a fire caused by a flammable liquid that the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office said was set alight by Eric Justin Perry, 35. An employee told deputies that he tried to stop Perry, who fled in a boat.
A witness reported seeing a body under a blanket in the boat, according to the sheriff’s office. Deputies, wildlife officers and the Coast Guard searched for Perry’s boat, which was found in the marsh behind Huntington Beach State Park. Dan Morgan, an inlet resident, said he had seen Perry and Hill out fishing a few days earlier. Although searchers were looking in the ocean, Morgan returned to the spot where he had seen the 16-foot High Tide boat. “It was an out of the way place,” he said.
Morgan called the Coast Guard.
Hill’s body was found in the boat. The cause of death was “strangulation and blunt-force trauma to the head,” Coroner Kenny Johnson said. The time of death is still unknown. “We are trying to put the chain of events in place,” he said.
Perry was charged with murder and arson and is being held at the county jail without bond.
According to Family Court documents, Hill and Perry began living together in September 2004 in Horry County. They bought the bait shop from his parents in 2010.
In April 2011, deputies called to the couple’s home found Hill curled up on the lawn and bleeding from the nose and mouth. She was so afraid she wouldn’t get out of a patrol car to get into an ambulance, the deputy said.
She said Perry hit her following an argument. She didn’t want to press charges, saying she loved him. She told the deputy Perry was being treated for bipolar disorder and a change in medication may have caused the attack.
Perry was arrested on a domestic violence charge, but not prosecuted, according to court records.
Perry and Hill’s marriage was recognized by the Family Court in 2012, but they separated the following year and he filed for divorce.
The divorce became final in 2015, with Hill receiving custody of the children and their home and business. Perry agreed to continue to catch bait for her.
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