The Closer introduces listeners to Charles Wakefield, Jr.’s nightmare, Wyatt Earp Harper, and explains how Harper’s greatest weapon was his voice. For more, read the show notes or listen to the episode above.
Wyatt Earp Harper served as the most damning witness against Charles Wakefield. Nearly 30 years after his testimony, Harper admitted he had lied on the stand in an effort to improve his chances of getting out of prison.
Below is a timeline of Harper’s life before and after helping send Wakefield to prison.
October 18, 1973: Arrested by Mike Bridges on Mayfield Street at 11pm for housebreaking, grand larceny, possession of unlawful weapon, possession of lottery tickets; turned over to juvenile authorities.
November 28, 1973: Begins sentence at John G. Richards School for Boys
June 13, 1974: Paroled from John G. Richards School for Boys in Columbia and sent home with his mother
October 17, 1974: Arrested for armed robbery at Snyder’s car lot. Later gives statement to Lt. Jim Christopher. Held man at gunpoint with a .32 caliber pistol and robbed him of $6.
August 29, 1975: Sentenced by Frank Eppes to ten years for robbery at a Buncombe St. car lot the previous October
November 9, 1975: Files for Post Conviction Relief in Judge Eppes’ court
November 19, 1975: Interviewed by Jim Christopher
November 22, 1975: Gives second statement to Bridges and Christopher
December 1, 1975: Indicted for Accessory After the Fact Murder in Looper killings
December 29, 1975: Transferred from Kirkland prison to the Greenville Police Department and put in the abandoned old city jail
February 24, 1976: Takes stand against Charles Wakefield
March 11, 1976: Receives a portion of the reward money in the Looper murders; money goes to attorney Bill Bannister.
April 26, 1976: Pleads guilty to accessory after the fact in the Looper case in front of C. Victor Pyle; receives ten-year sentence to run concurrent to the ten-year sentence he had already received.
May 20, 1976: Transferred out of maximum security prison to Greenville at the request of prosecutor Billy Wilkins
July 2, 1976: Billy Wilkins pens letter to SCDOC Director William D. Leeke asking for Wyatt Earp Harper to be moved to Pickens County Detention Center “for his safe-keeping” for the rest of his term. Wilkins writes Harper “was an extremely important State witness in our conviction of Charles Wakefield.”
July 15, 1976: Transferred to Pickens County Detention Center
December 14, 1976: Transferred to Hillcrest Correctional Center
March 31, 1977: Escapes from the Hillcrest Correctional Center, is tackled by a guard and sent back to Greenville Intake Center
August 31, 1977: Assistant Solicitor under Billy Wilkins Will Lucius writes letter to Jesse Strickland, Director of Regional Operations of the SCDOC regarding Wyatt Earp Harper’s escape and the decision to move him to Kirkland Correctional; Wilkins writes “If Harper changes his ways over the next couple of years, then perhaps something could be done. We greatly appreciate everything you’ve done in attempting to locate Harper and your general cooperation with this office.”
October 10, 1977: Transferred back to Kirkland prison
April 23, 1980: Paroled on all charges
November 12, 1987: Charged with firearm possession
January 8, 1988: Charged with assault and battery
April 9, 1988: Indicted on two counts of heroin distribution
July 4, 1988: Arrested for burglary
November 30, 1988: Convicted in Greenville’s first reverse drug sting and sentenced to 18 months in prison
August 9, 1995: Arrested for possession of a firearm and firing into a dwelling
October 16, 1995: Charged with possession of crack with intent to distribute; walks away from jail with other inmates.
October 17, 1995: Arrested for possession of crack with intent to distribute
October 25, 1995: After walking away from jail nine days earlier, walks back to the Greenville County Detention Center and surrenders
May 15, 2000: Fredrick Lamont Lewis is shot in Sterling community after an argument. His dying words were allegedly “Wyatt Earp Harper.” Harper was later found, chased, and arrested on the murder charge.
October 2001: Eric Gottlieb and former college roommate travel to South Carolina to talk with Wakefield; find Harper and tape his first recantation.
December 4, 2002: Arrested for armed robbery
September 28, 2004: Recants Wakefield testimony on the stand in Greenville County court
November 10, 2004: Two months after testifying on Wakefield’s behalf, arrested for multiple counts of break-ins and larcenies.
October 31, 2009: Named as suspect in shooting death of Lonnie Oglesby
September 7, 2010: Sentenced to 15 years for voluntary manslaughter of Lonnie Oglesby. Prosecutors said Harper, a heroin dealer, was fed up with Oglesby and shot him in the back after Oglesby begged for $30 worth of drugs when he only had $15 on him.
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The Closer digs into how a man named Wyatt Earp Harper became part of the Looper murders investigation and subsequently testified against Charles Wakefield, Jr.
Wakefield discusses how he became aware of Harper and the destructive force Harper became to the Wakefield family.
The episode then reveals that Harper went on to become a killer all his own.