Man gets 40 years for murders of 2 military men on Lake Murray

Joseph Elijah Mills. 

Joseph Elijah Mills, a 27-year-old Newberry County man, was sentenced Thursday to 40 years, without the possibility of parole, for the murders of Charles Allen Judge Jr., 40, and Jonathan Michael Prins, 29.

The murders occurred at the Frayed Knot Bar and Grill in Lexington County on July 24, 2016. After consultation with the victims’ family members, the State agreed to a negotiated sentence of 40 years, which must be served “day for day” in the S.C. Department of Corrections. The sentence was imposed by Judge R. Knox McMahon following Mills’ guilty plea.

Mills went to the Frayed Knot, located near the Newberry County line, shortly after midnight looking for his girlfriend. An altercation ensued and Mills chased and tackled the female in front of numerous bar patrons.

Mills was separated from the female and after attempting to pursue her, he was shoved off the boardwalk and fell to the shoreline. At this point, Mills pulled out a handgun and fired several rounds into the air. Mills then climbed back onto the boardwalk.

Judge and Prins, hearing the gunshots, ran from their boat anchored at the end of the dock and approached Mills in an attempt to defuse the situation and disarm the man. Mills then stepped back and shot both Judge and Prins in the upper body. Prins was pronounced dead at the scene and Judge died during transport to the hospital.

Charles Judge was a Sergeant First Class of the S.C. Army National Guard. He served 21 years in service overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Iraqi Governance Campaign. He was the founder of Upstate Stand Down, a non-profit organization focusing on helping homeless and at risk Veterans.

Jonathan Prins was a Drill Sergeant in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Jackson. During his 10 years with the Army, he served two tours in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq.

The case was prosecuted by Eleventh Circuit Deputy Solicitor Shawn Graham and Assistant Solicitor Gill Bell.

During the plea, Assistant Solicitor Bell stated, “Judge and Prins were true heroes who ran towards the gunfire to protect the lives of others, without regard for their own safety.” Family members of both victims were present in court for the sentencing hearing.

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