Two found guilty of the murder of Samuel Rowell

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MARION COUNTY, S.C.  — Nearly two years after the slaying of former Ocean City resident Samuel Rowell, two Marion County men were convicted by a jury of murder, armed robbery, burglary, conspiracy and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime in the death.

Tyrell Woods and Marco Sanders were sentenced to life in prison on May 22 at the conclusion of a trial held at the Marion County Courthouse, according to and various news services.

Rowell was shot and killed at his Phil Court home in the Friendship Community of Marion County on July 4, 2012. He was 71. 

In what Marion County Sheriff Mark Richardson dubbed a “senseless killing, senseless cold blooded assassination,” Rowell was gagged with his hands tied behind his back and his ankles duct taped together. Investigators with the sheriff’s office said Rowell was murdered during a robbery and home invasion.

Ocean City’s second ward Councilman Antwan McClellan said the Rowell family found some solace in the convictions.

“The family is still suffering,” he said. “It’s been very tough, a very sad situation.”

Most of Rowell’s family, which includes his wife and 15 children, still live in the area, McClellan said. Samuel Rowell lived in Ocean City for decades before moving to South Carolina. Rowell maintained a 40-acre farm, McClellan said. 

Rowell, a veteran of the U.S. Army, founded a moving and storage company many years ago, Samuel Rowell and Company Movers.

The family traveled to South Carolina for the trial, McClellan said.

“We all miss him,” he said.

Rowell, McClellan said, was a “very nice man” who helped his neighbors, his church and his community. Rowell’s circle of friends was upset by his death, McClellan said.

“We’re still devastated,” he said, adding that Rowell touched a lot of lives through his work with the community and his business.

Richard Ralston was one of many touched by Rowell’s kindness. He said he was “devastated” by Rowell’s tragic death and followed the trial closely.

“He was like a second father to me,” said Raltson. “I’m a white man, he was a black man, but that never mattered.  He was like a dad to me. We were very close.

“He was the kindest man you’d ever meet,” he said.

The Ralston family moved to Ocean City in 1970, he said.

“I was in second grade,” he said. His family owned the Moorlyn View Hotel on Moorlyn Terrace and the Royal Diner on Ninth Street.

“During that period, Samuel Rowell was integral,” he said. Rowell helped the family with the businesses, he said.

In 1977, his parents divorced and Raltson moved to West Palm Beach, Fla.

“Sam’s moving company moved us,” he said, the first of what became a lucrative business for Rowell, moving families and retirees to the Sunshine State. “He was imbedded in that Florida route, he had a lot of customers. Every time he came down with a load, he would stay with us.

“For 25 years, I would see him, every trip,” he said. “He was a lifetime friend.”

When Ralston faced troubles as a youth, Rowell would intervene with Ralston’s father.

“I always asked Sam first what I should do in a problem,” he said. “Then he’d call my dad and tell him.”

Ralston was pleased with the convictions, he said.

Both Woods and Sanders were sentenced to life for murder and burglary in the first degree. They were each given 30 year sentences for armed robbery and attempted murder, five years for conspiracy and five years for possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

“Each of those sentences will run consecutively, not concurrently,” he said. “It was a senseless home invasion gone wrong. They will never see the light of day, and that’s a relief.”

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