Justin was required to attend the police academy in Columbia SC as are all officers given police powers by the state of SC. He checked up on Molly often while he was out of town for academy training, not just to confirm that she was safe, but to also determine exactly who she was seeing and where she was going.
Justin came into the K-mart pharmacy often after graduation. He seldom spoke to anyone but Molly; and it unnerved the pharmacy employees that Justin, conspicuous in his police blues, would simply stand and stare at Molly. He disliked it when she would go out with her friends and he threatened anyone he perceived as a potential male suitor. Apparently he did a good job challenging other suitors, because once threatened, they never came back.
We were never quite certain about how or why their engagement ever took place. It was told that Justin took Molly into a back room during a family event to present and pressure her into taking the ring. Molly cared for Justin, but such formality in the relationship was not what she wanted. Her tactful insistence on waiting met with pleading and begging and more pressure to accept the ring. Molly was extremely generous and kind, and even in the end when she knew she must get away from him, she didn’t want to hurt Justin. She was not at all prepared to spend the rest of her life with Justin and told him so, but she did finally acquiesce and take the ring.
After “the engagement” it didn’t take long for Justin’s controlling and possessive nature to fully manifest itself and for Molly to recognize it as a threat. She did seem to “try on” the engagement for a while and even introduced Justin as her fiancÚ. But this was short lived. Molly tried to give the ring back on more then one occasion. She would take it off at work, leave it by the computer, and then scramble to retrieve it and put it on when Justin came into the store. I believe it was at the Coroner’s Inquest that someone told a story of going to pick up Molly at the airport, only to find her frantically digging for the ring in the bottom of her purse when she discovered that Justin, too, was coming to meet her. At some point she did manage to return the ring back to Justin, only to come home to a locked house and find it sitting on the dresser in her bedroom.
Justin tracked Molly’s movements. As a Mount Pleasant police officer driving a marked police car, he had no reservations about putting the emergency blue lights on to pull her over. Much to Molly’s displeasure, he did this on more than one occasion. Justin tracked her to Myrtle Beach one weekend when she tried get away with some friends that included a male acquaintance from her home state of Pennsylvania. Molly had worked at the K-mart Pharmacy in Myrtle Beach and Justin knew which hotels she had stayed in. He contacted the hotels and (we believe he) used his police credentials to compel the managers to reveal whether or not Molly was a guest. When he found the right hotel he called the room and screamed at Molly over the phone. When she hung up on him he sent a note up to the room just to let them all know that he was close at hand.
Justin apparently kept Molly’s house under surveillance. When he discovered that the male friend was visiting Molly at home one weekend, he called Molly, screamed at her, told her that he had run this guy’s tags through the police computer, and described the exact clothes the fellow was wearing at the time.
Molly’s parents had retired, sold their home in Pennsylvania, and were in hopes of building a home in Mount Pleasant. Molly invited them stay with her while they decided where to build; and it was not long before they developed a deep concern about Justin. They were profoundly worried about his jealous and possessive nature. They also found it more than just a little disconcerting that Justin, when invited into Molly’s house, would go directly to the phone and check the caller ID to see who had been calling Molly. Justin was not bashful about calling the numbers to see who would answer on the other end. He would also change the code in her cell phone so Molly could not retrieve her messages, but he could.
Although never rude to Justin, Molly’s parents were concerned about his angry reaction to any friends that Molly would socialize with, male or female. They were pleased when Molly reached the point where she no longer considered herself engaged, but knew she would have difficulty in dissolving the relationship. Justin was determined not to let her go, and she had better be wearing that ring if she was around any of his police friends or his family.
Justin had wanted to take Molly to an upcoming family reunion (his family) for the weekend. She was his trophy. She was witty, pretty, extremely kind and generous, radiated an innocent charm, and had a smile that would truly warm your heart; not to mention a great career as a pharmacist. She was indeed a trophy and Justin treated her as such.
Molly refused to go with Justin to the family gathering and elected instead to go see her sister in Columbia, SC. Justin either learned where she was going or tracked Molly to Columbia and confronted her at her sister’s apartment. Justin, of course, just wanted to patch things up, and when she finally acquiesced and got in the car after Justin’s incessant pleading “please get in the car and let’s talk”, the next stop was his family’s home in Anderson, SC. Molly’s car, keys, cloths, and cell phone were still at her sister’s apartment in Columbia.
Justin told Molly she could file a complaint against him with the police regarding his behavior toward her, but for her to remember that he was the police, that they stick together, and that no one would lift a finger to help her. Molly did confide her concerns about Justin to the State Department of Health and Environmental Control officer who had inspection and enforcement jurisdiction over her pharmacy. This DHEC officer advised a Mount Pleasant Police Sergeant that the Mount Pleasant Police Department had a problem in Justin Hembree and that the department needed to do something about it. This DHEC officer described several of the instances Molly related to him about entry of her home, of Justin stalking her and of his threats to others. Although this sergeant provided a business card to the DHEC officer to give to Molly, the Mount Pleasant Police now deny that this conversation ever took place.
Molly could, at times, be a little disorganized. She thought she had been keeping up with her continuing education requirements, but when a random audit showed she was a few hours short she ended up having her pharmaceutical license suspended and ultimately lost her job. In retrospect, many of her friends and colleagues wondered if she had not done this on purpose.
A woman from the Board of Pharmacy testified at the Coroner’s inquest that Molly was contrite and apologetic about getting behind and having her license suspended. Molly immediately enrolled in and completed continuing education courses (that surpassed the minimum requirements) so she could have her license reinstated. It also appears that by this point in time Molly’s plans to move to Jacksonville, Florida were already in the works. Her license would in fact have been restored the next time the full board met. This woman was neither a close friend nor coworker, but Molly had spent enough time with her to confide that she was uncomfortable living in Mount Pleasant because Justin seemed to follow her everywhere. Molly had in fact accepted a job out of state because she was tired "of living under a microscope."
The pharmacy manager who hired Molly testified that Molly had truthfully divulged that she was working to have her license reinstated after falling short on continuing education hours. All of this was noted on the application to transfer her license from South Carolina to Florida. This was of small concern to him since Molly would have to pass the Pharmaceutical Law exam in Florida before she could become registered there. He had made arrangements to put Molly in a store where she would be working as a technician, under the direction of a licensed pharmacist until she could get registered. He definitely wanted that smile and bubbly personality working in his store as soon as possible. Many of the Mount Pleasant K-mart Pharmacy customers related that they looked forward to having their prescription refilled just to have the pleasure of visiting with Molly.
Molly had a new job, had a contract on her home, found an apartment, and was making plans to move to Florida with her parents the first week in November in 2003. The planned move never took place. Molly was shot and killed on Monday November 3, 2003, the day before election Tuesday; three days after she delivered a “Dear John” letter to Justin, and three days before the moving van was to come for her furniture.
Those of us who knew Molly, and knew of Justin’s outrageous obsession with her, knew instantly what had happened when we learned that Molly had been shot. It seemed to us that it just wouldn’t take SLED (the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division) very long to figure this one out. There was little in the news about Molly following her murder in Mount Pleasant. At first we thought this was good; that SLED was keeping things quiet and that the trial could be held in Charleston County since there wasn’t any “prejudicial” information getting out through the media. We just had to be patient.
What SLED had to work with was this:
1.Molly was found shot to death in Justin Hembree’s apartment by officer Hembree, ostensibly when he returned from working narcotics that day. (He started to slip in the 911 audio and name (or couldn’t remember the story of) who he was supposedly working with, but he quickly recovered and said “working narcotics”.)
2.Molly had been shot with a small 22 caliber, seven shot Rossie revolver that belonged to officer Hembree.
3.Two bullets in the gun had been struck. The first one was a dud. The second round was struck, fired and entered her body above the left breast and traveled down through her heart. Molly was right handed.
4.The cylinder had advanced to a third shell. The gun was not cocked but was in the down position. There was a live round under the hammer. (If you understand pistol mechanics you’re on your feet at this point.)
5.There were no latent finger prints on the gun and it was first reported that there was no gunshot residue on Molly’s hands. (The gun shot residue story changed just prior to the Corner’s inquest, after Hembree’s attorney was granted full access to SLED’s records. Hembree was not tested until late that evening for residue. None was found.)
6.Molly was retrieving her personal belongings from Justin’s apartment. Some of her dresses were laid across the end of the bed in the room where she was killed.
7.Molly was found lying on the floor, on her back, next to a bed that looked like it had just hosted a street fight. There were bruises on both ankles.
Justine Hembree is a hunter. A look in his “trophy room” revealed an intimacy with the brutality of death that far surpassed merely pulling the trigger. He kept the small revolver in a zippered case in this room. Molly hated that room and would not go in it because the walls were literally filled with the heads of animals he had killed.
Molly disliked guns as much as she disliked going in that room. Justin compelled her to accompany him to the firing range one day so he could teach her to shoot. She couldn’t stand the violence or the noise. Justin refused to take her home until he had finished his practice; so she just sat in the car and cried until he was done.
To this day, Justin has never spoken to Molly’s parents following her death. He has never expressed his regret to them, nor did he ever return any of Molly’s possessions that were in his apartment, including the keys to her house. The canvas bag in which Molly carried bills, phone records, check book and other documents has never been found. The Mount Pleasant Police allowed Justin to keep the keys to Molly’s car so he could pillage through it at will.
But all we had to do was be patient. We were certain that SLED would figure it out.
You can imagine our shock, surprise, and pure outrage when a May 2004 article in the Post and Courier revealed that SLED’s “profiler” had decided that Molly’s death was “most consistent with suicide.” Fortunately for us and for Molly’s family, the Charleston County Coroner, who was at the crime scene that night, was not at all convinced that Molly had died by her own hand. A rare Coroner’s Inquest was convened on Molly’s behalf in early August 2004. It took the jury longer to fill out the paper work than it did for them to conclude that Molly’s death was a homicide.
Friends of Molly who attended the inquest found it interesting and moderately satisfying that the profiler was made to look a perfect fool during examination on the witness stand. Lead agent Matt Ford came across as a pure incompetent and was reported to have lost his job after the inquest closed in August 2004. Agent Ford was clearly inept, but this had to have been known by the SLED hierarchy before he was assigned to the case. We still wonder if someone wanted to assign Mr. Ineptitude to the case so it could be spun as a suicide and quietly put away.
Even though subpoenaed to appear at the Coroner’s Inquest, Justin Hembree invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify. The police spun it as not wanting to compromise Hembree’s undercover status. Interestingly, his undercover coworkers were conspicuous at the hearing, but they disappeared after the first day.
The May newspaper article had some information on the case that was indeed news to friends and coworkers. Someone had tried to scramble the hard drive on Molly’s laptop computer. Hembree professed a certain knowledge and competency with computers and was at her home on the Friday (Halloween 2003, ostensibly to help pass out candy) before she was killed. The lawyer for Molly’s family had the computer examined, and it was found to contain evidence of narcotic pain killer purchases over the internet. These orders for schedule III narcotics were delivered to Hembree’s apartment complex. Federal Express records show that one delivery was made directly to Hembree’s apartment. It was signed for in Molly’s name, but the signature was not hers. Justin never signed for any of these, but are we to believe that the girlfriend (no! the loving fiancÚ according to Hembree) of Mount Pleasant’s rising star in undercover narcotics was moving massive quantities of drugs through his apartment without his knowledge?
Justin stalked Molly and knew her every move. Molly often commented on how Justin would show up every where she went. She couldn’t hide from him or go anywhere undetected. So how could she possibly conceal drug purchases that were being shipped to his apartment complex? On one of the documents recovered form Molly’s computer, the phone number listed as the primary contact turned out to be Hembree’s cell phone.
It is ironic that this movement of drugs and Molly’s murder took place within a few blocks of the police department. The alibi provided by his narcotics buddies on the day of the murder also puts him within a few blocks of the apartment during the time of her death.
This news of the internet drug purchases triggered an audit at the pharmacy where she last worked. Large amounts of narcotic painkillers were found missing. Hembree’s attorney, in a retaliatory smear campaign after the inquest, proudly announced that $80,000 to $90,000 worth of drugs were missing (and or purchased, I forget whether his total included internet purchases) from the Pharmacy where Molly last worked; the implication being that they had passed through Molly’s hands. (So why didn’t his client, the undercover narcotics officer catch on to this?)
We know of no instance where drugs went missing from any pharmacy where Molly worked until she started dating Justin. And, oh yes, how was it again that this fellow made the unheard of jump from uniformed patrol officer to undercover narcotics officer in just nine months? Did he arrive with some currency that made him a player? Justin used to toss an endless supply of small stuffed animals over the counter to Molly, just the right size to conceal a bottle of pills. She gave most of them away to the children of co-workers and friends, but not all were accounted for. Justin would also walk Molly from the Pharmacy to the checkout counter at night when the Pharmacy closed. A noble gesture, but then who would check a police officer escorting his girl friend out of the store at night.
None of these drugs were found in Molly’s body after careful screening during the autopsy. She was not a user. An examination of her personal accounts and bank records showed no deposits of movements of money that would indicate that she had income aside from her salary.
We expected the police, at least at first, to close ranks around their man. Hembree apparently caused no difficulties at work, and must have been productive as a new narcotics officer. But in light of the testimony from the inquest, of how he stalked Molly, and how he used his police authority to extend his control over her; not to mention $90,000 worth of drugs that passed under his nose, how can this guy possibly keep his job? And, more importantly, how can the State of South Carolina give authority and accreditation to a police officer who refused to testify in the shooting death of his girlfriend in his apartment?
Some peculiar forces are at work.
Both the Mayor of Mount Pleasant (Harry Hallman) and the Chief of Police were contacted on Molly’s behalf after the story broke in May 2004. Neither of them seemed too concerned with the actions of officer Hembree, and both were quick to point out that his attorney would most likely sue the town of Mount Pleasant if Hembree were dismissed from the force. We found this laughable since it was rumored that the Mount Pleasant Police immediately secured the services of this attorney on behalf of officer Hembree; but we do not know this for certain. What did seem certain was that both Mayor and Chief of Police jumped to this assertion that the town would be sued way too early in their conversations with those who spoke on Molly’s behalf. It all seemed a very prearranged line for any inquires that would come form the community.
It wasn’t until after the Coroner’s inquest that Hembree was put on administrative leave. The local news media fell all over themselves to get an interview with Hembree’s attorney, who was very unkind in his assessment of Molly’s character. It was a brutal thing for Molly’s mother to endure.
An assistant attorney in the solicitor’s office assured those who inquired from the community that they were carefully looking into Molly’s death. Once again we were simply stunned when we learned that the Charleston County Solicitor ordered SLED to turn over all of their files on the Molly Wrazen case to Hembree’s attorney, and then recused himself, suddenly recognizing that he had a conflict of interest in pursuing this case.
So why would the Charleston County Solicitor compel SLED, the top law enforcement agency in the state, to turn over files on a open case, to an attorney for a person who had not been charged or even listed a person of interest? Is this the good-ol’ boy network at work?
We have had access to SLED hierarchy in Columbia and we want to believe that SLED will properly sort this out. They do not determine guilt or innocence. All they can do is assemble the facts and present what they have to the State Attorney General for a decision on arrest and possible prosecution. We do not know what political forces may affect the decision of the State Attorney General. SLED turned over their new findings to the State Attorney General on July 29. It is said to be the biggest report they have ever produced. We have confidence in the integrity of SLED and the AG’s office, but this case has suffered a series of unusual events that breed questions that remain unanswered.
Molly was from the town of Laflin, Pennsylvania. She was adored by everyone she met. It is a sad thing to say, but it is our earnest belief that if Molly Wrazen were a daughter of the South, then Justin Hembree would be in jail right now. She has been treated by the Mount Pleasant police as a transient and a throw-away.
Molly Wrazen was in fact as kind and generous as she was lovely.
Molly’s murder is the story of unexplained obscurity of the obvious. A young woman, who was moving to get away from her boyfriend by moving to another state, was found shot to death three days before the moving van was to arrive, ostensibly discovered by the boyfriend, in his apartment, shot with his gun.
Many of you who have been directed to this website have been asked to perform a specific task on Molly’s behalf. Please take the time to get involved. It could make a world of difference.
In the Lord’s time this will all get worked out.
Blessings to you all for taking the time to get involved.