Summerville, S.C.—A man accused of sexually assaulting two women he met on the website backpage.com was put back in jail on Tuesday. Berkeley County deputies arrested Thomas Michael Powell on kidnapping and first degree criminal sexual conduct charges. Powell faced a bond judge on Tuesday night and was denied bond. He was arrested less than a week ago in Summerville on similar charges. At that time, we asked for his name and mugshot, but police did not give us that information saying “the investigation was still ongoing.” We also found out today that Powell was released on bond one day after his arrest. Police released his identity on Tuesday.
The reason they initially withheld his identity was to protect their investigation. Summerville Police said having the suspect’s name and picture out in the public would allow his lawyer to argue that victims were biased when identifying him in a line up. We wanted to know why his information was not made public the minute he got out of jail. We spoke to one neighbor who said, “As someone with a wife and daughter, I would want to know who this guy is.”
We asked police if the public has the right to know his identity if he’s being released from jail. The answer, “no,” said Summerville Police spokesperson Jon Rogers. “When a person’s released from jail on charges such as this, the victim is notified of the release. It would be impossible for the jail to call everybody in the town or in the tri-county area saying this person was released from jail. The only notifications that are made are made to the victim.”
We asked if police should notify the media so that we can publicize the information. Summerville police responded, “we didn’t want to jeopardize any of the cases and I think that’s where people are losing sight is what we are trying to do is build good solid cases and make sure the victims are heard.”
At this time, two women have gone to police with the story of how they were raped. In the incident report is a statement from one of those women. She says that Powell asked her to meet him at a home on Wainwright Manor. She says he then held a knife to her throat and raped her.
Robin Hatfield has lived next door to Powell for years. She was there when the police came to his house and was shocked when she heard why. “He’s out there mowing his mom’s grass.” Hatfield continued, “He’s taking care of things. He’s just a nice boy. He’s polite and they’re a nice family.”
The crimes allegedly happened just a couple streets down from where Powell lives. Neighbors are concerned about a man charged with violent crimes being back in the neighborhood.
The Summerville Police Department continues to investigate. “Just because an arrest has been made does not mean the investigation is concluded it’s far from over.
Many of our Facebook followers asked why someone charged of sexual assault was able to get out of jail on bond. In South Carolina, a person is able to get out on bond for any charge, even murder.
Thomas Powell was denied bond Tuesday night in Berkeley County.
Berkeley County Sheriff’s Detectives are requesting that anyone with additional information pertinent to this investigation contact their local law enforcement agency or Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry at 843-554-1111.