Investigators have arrested a Greenwood man in connection with what officials characterized a "suspicious death" at Hillcrest Condos earlier this month, according to Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis.
Wayne Michael Smith, 24, of 349 Washington Ave., was charged with murder and strong-arm robbery after being apprehended Thursday, records indicated.
Davis issued a press statement Thursday morning that indicated the county's newly minted Violent Crimes Task Force arrested the suspect, who they tied to the death of 68-year-old Phillip Baer. Baer was found dead in the living room of his Greenwood condo along Parkway the night of July 14.
Officials with the task force said someone entered Baer's condo intending to rob him, and demanded money from the elderly man once he was inside the residence. The suspect grabbed the victim by the neck when he hesitated, and Baer fell to the floor and died of heart failure. Afterward, the suspect stole several items from the victim's home and fled in the victim's pickup truck.
The city/county SWAT team assisted the multi-jurisdictional task force in apprehending the suspect at his home early Thursday. Authorities officially charged Smith sometime Thursday afternoon. The man went before a magistrate court judge to be arraigned Thursday. The judge did not set a bond for Smith because of the nature of the charges.
Officials initially considered Baer's death "suspicious." Dr. Brett Woodard performed an autopsy on the victim in Anderson the morning of July 15, and those findings indicated he died of heart failure. Greenwood County Coroner Sonny Cox ruled the cause of death to be natural. He said pathologists estimated Baer died sometime in the four-hour window between 10 p.m. July 12 and 2 a.m. July 13.
Despite the autopsy results, authorities indicated then they would continue investigating the circumstances surrounding Baer's death. Family members found the elderly man's body in a room that was in disarray, as if there had been a recent struggle there, police records indicated. Officers also determined a 32-inch flat screen television and a laptop were stolen from his residence, and discovered Baer's light blue single-cab Ford Ranger pickup truck missing from the parking lot. Investigators located the vehicle July 15 on Dallas Court.