Bertha Neaman (1988)

Bertha Neaman was employed in 1988 by Hilton Head Water Company, which then subcontracted with the Savannah Morning News to haul papers from Savannah to the island. The company's van was found in a lot near a Marshland Road business, several miles from her body. Her two dogs were found unharmed in the back, along with one of her shoes. Beaufort County Coroner, Curt Copeland said at the time that she probably died between 5 and 8 a.m. Her body was found around 10:30 a.m.

DNA leads to arrest in 12-year-old murder case
Published by the Carolina Morning News Friday, May 26, 2000

BLUFFTON: More than a decade after a Savannah Morning News carrier was slain, alleged attacker is indicted.


Eckerin Odell Frazier

More than 12 years after a Savannah Morning News carrier was murdered on her route in Beaufort County, DNA tests led to the indictment of a Hilton Head Island man Thursday.

Eckerin Odell Frazier, 35, of Hilton Head was indicted on charges of murder, kidnapping and armed robbery after an investigator presented evidence to a Beaufort County grand jury.

Frazier allegedly shot Bertha Neaman, 63, of Bluffton on March 15, 1988. She was last seen at 3 a.m. after she dropped off a bundle of newspapers on Mathews Drive but didn't arrive for her 4 a.m. route on Hilton Head. Her body was found later that morning by telephone workers behind the New Church of Christ on Spanish Wells Road.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said DNA testing helped solve the case. In 1988 those tests weren't available and three months after the slaying, deputies told reporters they had reached a dead end.

Until now.

"One of my big things when I took office was going back and solving some of these unsolved murders," Tanner said. "They went back, shook the bushes so to speak, and things started surfacing."

Tanner would not say what evidence was analyzed but the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division did the testing, he said. Lt. Bob Bromage, who was assigned last year to work with the coroner and investigate death cases, interviewed key witnesses, including officers who worked on the case 12 years ago.

Lt. David Randall, who was one of the original investigators, also helped in the case, Tanner said.

Tanner said it was one of many old cases that are being re-analyzed and he hopes to take more to the grand jury soon.

"This is one of many I hope will be solved this year," he said. "A lot of people are spoiled by television where murders happen, are solved and tried within an hour. In cases like this, they may be old, but with patience information can come forward."

Neaman was employed by Hilton Head Water Co., which then subcontracted with the Savannah Morning News to haul papers from Savannah to the island.

The company's van was found in a lot near a Marshland Road business, several miles from her body. Her two dogs were found unharmed in the back, along with one of her shoes.

Beaufort County Coroner Curt Copeland said at the time that she probably died between 5 and 8 a.m. Her body was found at about 10:30 a.m.

Frazier is lodged at the Beaufort County Detention Center pending court appearances. He is also awaiting trial for an alleged robbery on Hilton Head Island in December.

Tanner said Frazier has an extensive criminal history.

In 1982, he was convicted for sexual assault and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the sheriff said. He was released in 1987 but returned to prison in 1989 after being convicted for burglary, grand larceny and forgery. He was sentenced to 15 years and released in November.

Investigators in 1988 told reporters they believed Neaman was sexually assaulted. Tanner declined to discuss details of the case Thursday but said Frazier was not charged with rape.