Sheriff reveals disturbing details in beating of store owner, wife
Mark Wright and Jack Foreman
© Greenville County Sheriff’s Office/ Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office
Two men have been arrested in connection with the brutal attack on a Greenville County, SC grocery store owner and his wife, who was also shot, according to interim Greenville County Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown.
Brown held a news conference Thursday morning to announce new details in the case and the arrests.
He said Mark Wright, of Travelers Rest, and Jack Foreman, from Palm Beach, Florida are facing a list of charges related to the September beating and shooting.
Brown said that sometime before 5 a.m. Sept. 25 Wright, Foreman and three others, who have not been identified, parked a half-mile from W.E. Willis convenience store on Highway 414 and walked to the business.
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He said they waited for the owner, Warren Willis, to exit the store and then brutally attacked him before binding him with zip ties and loading him into his SUV. Brown said one of the suspects was armed with a gun.
The suspects then drove to Willis’ home on Sweetgum Road without asking him for directions, Brown said.
At the home the suspects went inside, where Willis’ wife Ann was, and brutally beat her and bound her hands, according to Brown.
Brown said the suspects beat the couple for 30 minutes before shooting Ann Willis.
He said the suspects stole cash from the home and left.
Deputies were called to W.E. Willis Grocery 5 after an employee found the store in disarray and blood.
“Ultimately our investigators found Mr. and Mrs. Willis at their residence where they entered and found them bound and tied and unable to move,” Brown said.
At 7 a.m. that morning, Warren Willis’ SUV was found burned in a field on South McKinney Road and Meadow Fork Road, Brown said. He said evidence was found near the SUV and additional evidence was found on Bates Crossing Road in Travelers Rest the following day.
DNA from the evidence led investigators to Wright and Foreman, who were able to place the men at the crime scene, Brown said.
Brown said investigators learned Foreman arrived in Greenville County from Palm Beach, Florida on Sept. 16 “for the purpose of committing this crime.” He said Foreman returned to Palm Beach County, Florida on Sept. 25.
On Tuesday, investigators from Greenville County flew to Florida to assist in the arrest of Foreman on Wednesday.
Brown said Wright was arrested Wednesday in Greenville County, Brown said.
Wright is charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, assault and battery, arson, criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, burglary, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, Brown said.
He said Foreman is charged with attempted murder, assault and battery, grand larceny, armed robbery, criminal conspiracy and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
Brown said the three other suspects in the case have not been identified and investigators do not have a motive for the crime.
Capt. Tim Jones, with the Greenville County Investigative Division, said when Foreman was arrested he did not speak with Greenville County investigators. Jones said Wright is also not providing any information to authorities.
“We think someone knew his (Warren Willis) pattern of what he done with his stores and everything. Maybe they relayed that information. But we aren’t sure. It’s all speculation right now,” Jones said.
“One of the pieces of the puzzles is us putting together how somebody either surveilled Mr. Willis, somebody talked at work to Mr. Willis or somebody that had information of Mr. Willis’ schedule,” Brown said.
Ann Willis is still in critical condition, Brown said.
Brown said he visited Warren the morning of the crime and he was unrecognizable.
“Had I not known his voice I would have never known that was Warren Willis in that bed, Brown said. “Because he was brutally beaten in his face, his hands were bloody, his face was bloody, his eyes were completely shut. Brutal case. I don’t remember in my years a case that brutal on an assault and a robbery.”
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