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After the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office officials let convicted killer and rapist Eckerin Odell Frazier off easy three separate times, the 59-year-old Bluffton, South Carolina man was behind bars again this week.
Frazier — who confessed to killing a 60-year-old woman in 1988 and raping a 65-year-old woman in 1982 — turned himself in to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Monday after he was wanted for failing to register as a sex offender.
Frazier’s case is a perfect example of how South Carolina’s justice system fails to fight for women and victims of violent crime — even when public safety hangs in the balance.
The story involves multiple officials we have told you about throughout the Murdaugh Murders Podcast, including Duffie Stone, Randolph Murdaugh, Buster Murdaugh, and Carmen Mullen.
So what happened?
To understand Frazier’s story and why we believe he still belongs behind bars, we have to go back to 1982 when — as an 18 year old — he admittedly attacked and raped a 65-year-old woman at the beach where she was vacationing with her family on on Hilton Head Island.
The crime was an unforgettable nightmare for women on Hilton Head at the time.
Around 7:45 a.m. July 4, 1982, a woman was swimming at the Port Royal beach when Frazier hit her in the back of a head, shoved her into the dunes and violently raped her to the point her ribs were cracked.
A group of beachgoers — along with the woman’s daughter — heard the screams. The beachgoers chased Frazier to a golf course where he hid in the woods before he was eventually arrested by Beaufort County deputies.
He admitted to the rape and guess who gave him a sweetheart deal.
Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr. – aka Alex Murdaugh’s grandfather — hooked him up with a 10-year sentence that he only had to serve a fraction of before he was released after just a few years.
The excuse given at the time of this decision was that the victim didn’t speak English and had gone back to Germany. But according to our research, the woman was willing to return to testify. Buster Murdaugh decided it would be easier to strike a plea deal and move on.
And guess what happened.
Just 6 years after the violent rape on the beach, Frazier’s violence against older women struck again — but this time he didn’t let his victim live to testify.
In 1988, 60-year-old Bertha Neaman’s body was found behind a church on Hilton Head Island.
Unfortunately, her murder wasn’t solved until 2001 when a pesky detective, Bob Bromage, reopened the cold case and found evidence against Fraser, who had been a person of interest in the case.
At the time of his sentencing in 2001, forensic experts were unable to identify the source of the semen collected at Neaman’s autopsy, so they couldn’t charge Frazier with rape.
Bromage said that because the murder case was not strong enough to stand on its own at that point, Randolph Murdaugh — Alex Murdaugh’s father who was solicitor at that time — decided to reduce the charge to voluntary manslaughter and package it with his armed robbery charge.
The case always bugged Bromage, who wanted justice for Neaman’s family and questions about her death and rape answered.
Also alarming was Frazier’s prison record which was full of offenses (yet he still only had to serve 85 percent of his sentence). During his 20 years behind bars, Frazier was written up twice for public masturbation — most recently in 2019.
Meaning, on paper at least, it appeared like Frazier hadn’t been rehabilitated.
This presented a problem for Bob and the sheriff’s office. Hilton Head is not just a beautiful place to live, it’s largely made up of retirees (the age group that seemed to appeal to Frazier).
So 18 years after Frazier was sentenced, as Bromage noticed that Frazier’s release date was approaching, he instructed the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s forensic sciences lab to submit the rape evidence in Neaman’s case using DNA technology that didn’t exist when Frazier was caught in 2001.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) concluded that the DNA from the rape evidence matched Frazier’s DNA profile.
Frazier was then charged with first-degree criminal sexual assault in the 1988 rape of Bertha Neaman — and finally Neaman’s family had hope for justice in her case.
Frazier’s case was unusual because no one had ever heard of a man being convicted of one crime committed against a woman and then 20 years later being charged for a second crime committed against that woman.
Now, one would think this would be a slam-dunk case for a prosecutor.
While Stone’s office has a horrific reputation of dropping sexual assault cases due to “lack of evidence,” the evidence in this case seemed strong — there was DNA evidence tying Frazier to the rape and a confession from Frazier admitting he murdered Neaman on the night she was sexually assaulted.
The detective work from Bromage gave the system the opportunity to correct itself after going easy on a habitual offender who could be considered a danger to society.
But of course….enter Carmen Mullen.
In February 2021, when Frazier was originally scheduled to be released after serving 20 years for the murder charge, Judge Carmen Mullen presided over his bond hearing for the sexual assault charge.
Mullen set a shockingly low bond ($1,000 cash) for Frazier – carving out an easy path for the man with a violent criminal history to be released into the public.
I covered this case in 2021 and wrote about Frazier’s upcoming release — as it appeared to be something the Hilton Head community needed to be aware of. I wrote that Frazier told the court he would be living with a family member and for public safety reasons, I included that address in my article.
Well… quickly after that article was published I found out that Frazier apparently lied to the court about where he would be staying and the relative wasn’t at all aware that Frazier had plans to live with him after his upcoming release.
One would think that either prosecutor Hunter Swanson or Judge Carmen Mullen or SOMEONE within the court would care enough to double check where a rapist and killer claims to be staying, but no.
Frazier’s deception forced the court to temporarily revoke Frazier’s bond in March 2021 – just two days before he was set to be released. He spent the next few months behind bars as the 14th Circuit again got another chance to correct its errors with this man.
In August 2021, soon after Solicitor Duffie Stone finally recused himself in the Murdaugh murders investigation due to ongoing public scrutiny over his blatant conflicts of interest in the case, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office dropped the ball yet again.
Prosecutor Hunter Swanson, who is in charge of the Special Victims Unit of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, decided to drop Frazier’s sexual assault charge “due to insufficient evidence.”
Now, with conclusive DNA evidence and a confession tying him to the scene of the crime — how is that not enough to even attempt to try to prosecute a rape case?
What more evidence did they need exactly? Why wouldn’t Duffie’s office take on this case – not only for public safety and justice, but for the recognition they would have received for prosecuting a revolutionary case?
Frazier was a free man for more than two years before he was charged again this week for failing to register as a sex offender… which is unfortunately just a MISDEMEANOR in South Carolina (because our lawmakers don’t take sexual assault seriously).
Luckily, he turned himself in, but Bromage told us this week that it is alarming to see that Frazier is still not following the rules.
We hope he was rehabilitated, but had the system worked the first time, Bertha Neaman would likely still be alive.
Check out this week’s True Sunlight Podcast where we talk to Bob Bromage about this case and explain why it is so important.
Follow Mandy Matney
Mandy Matney is an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina and now lives on Hilton Head Island where she pursues mission-based investigative journalism.
Mandy is Co-Founder of Luna Shark Media, Host of Murdaugh Murders Podcast – now True Sunlight Podcast – and Cup of Justice Podcast.
Mandy is a KU grad with deep roots in the Sunflower State, but currently lives on Hilton Head Island with her husband David and pups Luna and Joe Pesky where she enjoys beach life.
With contributions from Liz Farrell.
Contact Liz Farrell
Liz is the Chief of Fresh Hell Media, but also collaborates with Luna shark Productions to write and edit MMP and COJ episodes.
Liz was named 2018’s top columnist in the state by South Carolina Press Association and is back after taking a nearly two-year break from corporate journalism to reclaim her soul.
Liz has lived in the Lowcountry since 2003. She is an award-winning journalist and co-host of Murdaugh Murders Podcast – now True Sunlight Podcast – and Cup of Justice podcast. Liz has been investigating the Murdaugh story for four (very strange) years.