Courts & Crime

Internet romance trial opens in Columbia, S.C.

Minutes after a police detective told a jury that murder defendant Theodore Manning IV had sex with the girlfriend who helped him burn up Nikki McPhatter’s body in Fairfield County, one of Manning’s lawyers jumped up and demanded a new trial.

“Your honor, it’s hard to imagine anything more prejudicial than to say these two committed these horrible crimes...and then had sex!” declared an outraged chief Richland County public defender Fielding Pringle.

Judge Thomas Cooper denied Pringle’s motion.

That action — on the opening day of Manning’s murder trial for McPhatter’s 2009 death in an Internet romance gone wrong — characterized what is shaping up to be one of the most bruising courtroom battles in recent years in a Richland County courtroom. As prosecution lawyers put up witness after witness, defense lawyers raised objection after objection, trying to limit evidence the jury can hear.

Manning, 30, is charged with killing McPhatter, 30, a Charlotte airlines employee who drove to Manning’s Bluff Road house on May 6, 2009, to break up with him after a several month long relationship.

None of McPhatter’s friends or family knew Manning, so when she disappeared that day and didn’t report to work as usual at US Airways in Charlotte, she effectively vanished without a trace.

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