Police: Man confesses at church to killing stepfather - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Police: Man confesses at church to killing stepfather

Scene where homicide occurred Scene where homicide occurred
Bryon C. Harvey, 41. Bryon C. Harvey, 41.

A man allegedly was building a casket for the stepfather that he had killed by hitting him in the head and then dumping his body in the family pool.

Police arrested the man after he allegedly confessed to a church intern that he had killed his stepfather, according to court documents.

On Thursday night, the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office charged Bryon C. Harvey, 41, with second-degree murder and armed criminal action. Harvey lived with his stepfather and mother.

Hal D. Cornell, 70, was found dead at the bottom of a partially filled swimming pool Tuesday morning. He had been struck in the head.

The discovery was made by his wife and mother of the suspect. 

Cornell had breakfast with his mother on Saturday morning, which was the last time anyone saw him alive. When Cornell's mother asked where he was on Monday, Harvey made up an excuse. When his mother confronted Harvey about where Cornell was, she could tell he wasn't truthful, according to court documents.

Harvey allegedly then showed her the body. Harvey initially told detectives that he found the body in the pool but didn't know what to do other than build a casket in the basement, according to court records.

On Wednesday night, Harvey went to International House of Prayer, 3335 E. Red Bridge Rd., where he allegedly talked to an intern for an hour. During the course of the conversation, Harvey allegedly told the intern that he had killed his stepfather.

"Harvey told him that he struck the victim in the head with a rock and threw him in the swimming pool. Harvey told the intern that he had lied to his family and the police about what occurred," according to court documents.

When taken in for questioning on Thursday, Harvey initially denied knowing anything. He later admitted to getting into a fight with his stepfather Saturday night, police said.

"He stated that the victim had a gun on him and so he struck him with a hammer and then held the hammer against the victim's neck to hold him down," according to court documents. "Harvey stated that he walked away from the victim and he heard him moving in the bushes, so he then approached the victim and struck him with a sledge hammer. Harvey advised that this all occurred by the garage and that he carried the victim to the back of the house and threw his body in the swimming pool."

Police spent Thursday combing through the residence. Among the items taken into evidence was a dolly.

A neighbor said Cornell raised Harvey and considered him his son. The victim's wife had moved in with her daughter who lives nearby to help her raise her children.

Neighbor Gene Lundy said Thursday that Harvey had just lost his job and the two men were home alone over the weekend. Lundy said he had an encounter Saturday with the son that he will never forget. He said the son was in a frenzy and said his father was driving him crazy. Lundy said he offered to call 911 when the son fell to the ground, but the son insisted he was OK. However, he said much of the conversation was incoherent and bizarre.

Lundy has known Cornell for more than 30 years.

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