James Edward Loftis, 39, was granted bail on Monday, although he is accused of fatally shooting taxi driver Guma Oz Dubar, 46, and James Cody Newland, 32. Authorities said the South Carolina man failed to alert authorities that he shot the men dead and instead opted to burn their bodies and bury them in his backyard.
According to the Washington Post, Dubar, who ran Global Mobile Taxi Service, agreed to transport James Loftis to his home in Goose Creek from the Stilettos Gentlemen’s Club in Charleston. Newland was a friend of Dubar’s who incidentally tagged along.
James Edward Loftis ‘I stood my ground’ defense for killing, burning and burying men in his backyard …judge grants … pic.twitter.com/urmkuoJLVv
— Ksley8 (@KonnieMoments1) May 10, 2016
Upon arriving at his home, Loftis reportedly told Dubar he needed to go inside to get some cash for his fare. It is unclear whether the men were invited into the house or simply barged in. However, James Loftis pulled out a 45 caliber semi-automatic handgun and opened fire. Authorities said the suspect fired eight times and subsequently killed both men.
When Guma Dubar and Cody Newland were dead, Loftis burned their bodies and buried them in his backyard. In an effort to destroy evidence, he also disposed of his bloody clothing and cleaned up the scene with bleach.
Wilda Loftis contacted authorities when her husband confessed he “killed [the men] and put them in the backyard.”
When police arrived on the scene, they discovered several bullet holes and an unusual mound of dirt in the backyard, where Loftis haphazardly buried the men’s bodies.
Saying it was “self-defense” James Loftis has been RELEASED on $250k bail after killing & burying two black men. pic.twitter.com/GnooY58H7q
— SyllabusMag (@SyllabusMag) May 10, 2016
James Loftis was subsequently arrested and criminally charged with the murder of both men. Each charge is a felony, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. However, a self-defense argument posed by Loftis’ attorney, Stephen Harris, persuaded the presiding judge to grant a request for $250,000 bail.
“He’s a human being… he freaked out and thought he was going to prison and tried to hide the bodies. Nobody knows how you’re going to react when you kill two people,” defense attorney Stephen Harris said.
Judge Markley Dennis said he weighed numerous factors, including the self-defense argument, before granting Loftis’ bail. He said he considered whether the defendant would be a danger to the community or a flight risk. However, the judge concluded the crime was an isolated incident and Loftis is not likely to be involved in another violent crime.
The prosecution, led by Bryan Alfaro, said despite the unusually lenient bail conditions, they will vigorously pursue the case. Alfaro said he is specifically concerned about discrepancies in James Loftis’ account as to whether the men barged into his home or were invited inside.
A critical part of Loftis’ defense will hinge on South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows homeowners to use deadly force against intruders if they feel physically threatened. The Stand Your Ground law has been a point of heated controversy since the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.
According to reports, James Loftis is expected to post bond before the end of the week. Although he will not be incarcerated, the defendant will be under house arrest, with privileges to go to church, doctor’s appointments, and work.
The case is definitely unusual, but self-defense arguments have proven successful, even when the defendant admitted disposing of the victim’s body after the fact.
In 2001, Texas native Robert Durst was arrested and charged with the murder of a neighbor. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Durst admitted shooting the man and dismembering his body before disposing of the remains in Galveston Bay. However, the jury believed he was acting in self-defense, and Durst was acquitted.
If James Loftis is convicted of murder, prosecutors will be tasked with proving beyond doubt that the defendant acted with malevolent intent and with little regard for life.
“If he didn’t burn the bodies, he would be a free man, the police see this horrible aftermath and say it’s malice, it’s not malice; it’s a person who’s scared,” his defense attorney Stephen Harris said.
[Image via Sinclair Story Line]