UNION COUNTY — A man and a woman are in jail after being arrested in connection with a string of armed robberies and attempted robberies in at least five Upstate counties.
In a press conference in the Grand Jury Room of the Union County Courthouse this afternoon, Union County Sheriff David Taylor announced the arrest of Matthew Williams Jr., 26, 101 Pine St., Apt. D, Union, and Porsha Gage, 23, 4044 Cross Keys Highway, Union. Taylor said Williams and Gage were taken into custody around 10 p.m. Tuesday at a motel in Spartanburg. He said they are currently being held in the Spartanburg County Detention Center but are also wanted by a number of Upstate law enforcement agencies including the Union County Sheriff’s Office and the Union Public Safety Department.
Taylor, joined by personnel from his office as well as the public safety department and representatives of law enforcement agencies in Spartanburg County and Greenville County, said that Williams and Gage are wanted in connection with a string of armed robberies and attempted robberies that began around the end of March/beginning of April. He said the incidents occurred in the City of Spartanburg, Greenville County, Greenwood County, Laurens County, the City of Irmo, and in both Union County and the City of Union.
While the pair mainly targeted check cashing businesses, Taylor said in some cases they also targeted stores.
Taylor said that his office has charged the pair with armed robbery in connection with the Monday night robbery of the Dollar General store in the Whtimire area.
Union Public Safety Director Sam White was among the law enforcement personnel attending the press conference. White said that his department has charged Williams and Gage with attempted robbery in connection with an attempt to rob the Check Into Cash on the Ducan Bypass. He said the incident occurred Monday afternoon.
Taylor said that at the time these incidents occurred, Williams and Page were on probation after being convicted in 2011 for similar crimes. He said those crimes took place in Union, Spartanburg, and Greenville counties and the pair were each charged with two counts of strongarm robbery, one count of attempted robbery, and one count of criminal conspiracy. Taylor said they were each sentenced to eight years suspended upon four years and four years probation. He said Gage was released from prison on Jan. 31 of this year and Williams released on March 10.
Not only were Williams and Gage on probation, but Taylor said one of them had actually reported to their probation officer the day before they committed two of their crimes.
During the press conference, Taylor repeatedly complained that Williams and Gage’s release from prison after serving less than three years and their subsequent return to a life of crime is another sign that the criminal justice system is broken.
“I am not here to tell you we have arrested a modern day Bonnie and Clyde, but we have removed two people who should not have been on the streets to start with,” Taylor said at the beginning of the press conference. “This just adds more to support that our judicial system is failing the citizens of our state. What is going to have to take place to stop it? I don’t want lawmakers to name a law after one of my citizens being killed on their job, because you are putting people back in society who will not abide by the laws of this state.”
Taylor pointed out that “we’re very lucky nobody has been hurt in these instances,” including Williams and Gage. He said that in most of the incidents the pair carried a plastic gun with them and in the incident that took place in the county they produced a hammer and said they had a gun. Even if there is only the threat of violence, Taylor said the situation can escalate to the point where violence does occur and someone ends up hurt or dead. He said that when someone comes into a store or other place of business claiming they have a gun and are willing to use it, they risk incurring a violent response from those they are attempting to rob.
When asked what he thought should be done with Williams and Gage, Taylor said the pair have shown they are unwilling to live by society’s rules and so therefore need to be sent to prison for a long time. He did not, however, seem optimistic about this happening, pointing again to their having been released from prison after less than three years despite being convicted of a previous multi-county crime spree.
Taylor said that while law enforcement agencies like his office and the public safety department and the other agencies involved in the case whom he praised for their cooperation and hard work, do their job and arrest the criminals and the solicitor’s offices do their job prosecuting them, the courts slap them on the wrist allowing almost immediately back on the street. He said the public has to complain to the S.C. General Assembly that makes the laws and appoints the judges and demand that they get serious about crime and putting criminals away for a long time.
In addition to the armed robbery and attempted robbery charges, Taylor said that Williams and Gage could also face drug charges as they were found with marijuana and another drug in their possession. He added that law enforcement agencies in other counties and cities may also come forward with charges against the pair.
When asked why Williams and Page did what they did, Taylor said the two were apparently enjoying a life of crime and the money they got from their crimes. He said they were “living the high life,” including enjoying room service and breakfast in bed at the motel where they were staying.
“They ordered breakfast in bed last night,” Taylor said. “They didn’t get it.”