No Charges Likely in ‘Wrong House’ Killing of University of South Carolina Student: Expert

Gun Rights

Charges are unlikely to be filed against whoever fatally shot a University of South Carolina fraternity brother who tried to enter the wrong house on his street, a local legal expert said Monday.

Former Richland County prosecutor Lori Murray said South Carolina’s “castle doctrine” law “means you can use any force, up to deadly force, to protect your home.”

The castle doctrine is similar to the “stand your ground” law, which the state has also adopted, Murray said.

“I think it will be resolved without charges being filed,” Murray told The Messenger.

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“I think it’s going to go down as a very tragic accident.”

Nicholas Anthony Donofrio, 20, of Madison, Connecticut, was killed after police received a 911 call shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday about a home burglary on the 500 block of South Holly Street in Columbia, South Carolina.

The call was upgraded to a shots-fired case while officers were en route, and they found Donofrio dead on the front porch of the home with a gunshot wound to his upper body.

In a statement Saturday, the Columbia Police Department said investigators were consulting with prosecutors from the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

The case remains under investigation, a spokesperson for the Solicitor’s Office told The Messenger on Monday evening.

Donofrio was a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and moved into an off-campus house last week to start his junior year, his grieving parents told New Haven, Connecticut, TV station WTNH.

South Carolina doesn’t require residents to obtain licenses to purchase or possess firearms and they don’t have to register their weapons with local authorities, Murray said.

Felons are prohibited from owning guns and face up to five years in prison if convicted, said Murray, a graduate of both the University of South Carolina and its law school.

But both the castle doctrine and the “stand your ground” law apply even in cases involving illegal firearms, Murray said.

“It’s the South,” Murray said.

“We have a lot of hunters here and it’s a been a red state for a long time, so the [National Rifle Association] doesn’t even have to spend money here.”

Donofrio’s killing marked the latest in a series of shootings across the country in which people have been shot for mistakenly going to the wrong house.

They include the April 13 wounding of Ralph Yarl, a Black teen who was shot in the head and arm when he knocked on the door of Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old white man, while trying to pick up his younger twin brothers.

Lester, who claims that Yarl was pulling on the storm door handle, allegedly opened fire after telling him, “Don’t come here ever again” and was charged with first-degree assault in a case that’s set for a preliminary hearing on Thursday and Friday.

Two days after Yarl was wounded, 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis was killed when the car in which she was traveling was fired upon after pulling into a driveway in Hebron, New York, about 50 miles north of Albany.

Kevin Monahan, 65, is charged with second-degree murder and last month filed a motion to dismiss the case, with a court hearing set for Sept. 7.

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