10 January 1986 – James Terry Roach

Even Mother Teresa couldn’t save James Terry Roach from the electric chair.

American-born Roach was executed on this day in 1986 for raping and murdering 14-year-old Carlotta Hartness and killing her 17-year-old boyfriend Thomas Scofield Taylor.

In the minority

But the fact that Roach was just 17 when he committed the crimes meant that he was a juvenile and should not have been eligible for the death penalty. Jimmy Carter, Mother Teresa and human rights activists all lobbied for him to be resentenced to no avail.

Thumbs up

His poignant last words were ‘To my family and friends, there is only three words to say: I love you,’ before he gave the thumbs-up to flip the switch. He was put to death aged 25 and became the second person to be executed in South Carolina following the resurrection of the death sentence in 1976.

One of his accomplices was 22-year-old Joseph Carl Shaw who was also put to death just over a year previously.

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21 Responses to “10 January 1986 – James Terry Roach”

  1. morgan Says:

    umm. yea im doing a report on J. Terry Roach and this is the only website i could find on him.well you guys really dont have that much to say about him.and i wish you did and maybe some pictures. thanks alot


  2. I was there Says:

    Hi Morgan. What would you like to know. I was familiar with the missing persons case of the Taylor boy and Hartness girl from the night that they went missing. This drug on for days or weeks until their bodies were found on Halloween of 77. Roach, his accomplice, Joseph Carl Shaw, and another person(s) the name of whom I forget, were involved in this horrible double murder as well as the rape and murder of a lady who did not have the family (political and social) connections that the youth did. His last meal came from Red Lobster in West Columbia, SC.
    His defense attorneys and others tried to get him off the hook on the premise that he had a brain disease, “Huntington’s Chorea”, but they did not succeed. Justice was ultimately served. One is no less murdered, raped, maimed, or tortured if it is done by a fifteen year old rather than a thirty year old.

  3. You have no idea what you are talking about ” i was there”!!!! So maybe you should not comment on this issue. As a family member of terry’s I find it very offensive that you would even put your comments on here.


      • Catherine hensley Says:

        I actually was terrys penpal back in the 80s.up to his time of execution. My prayers go out to all family members.

  4. No Way Says:

    No One knows what they are talking about here except the victims who are gone and their grieving family memebrs. They also tried to kidnap other females not mentioned in any news articles. I lived through a scary night of Roach and Mahaffey trying to abduct me off of Two Notch Road at Burger King and escaped with my life and looking over my shoulder to the present time. I am glad that Roach and Shaw were executed and Mahaffey landed in jail and died while imprisoned and too bad that Williams wasn’t subjected to the same fate.

    • Sandra Dale Welch Says:

      I lived on Bayview, and ate lunch at the Burger King you are talking about, while in high school at Keenen High School. Since two of them lived off Beltline, in the neigborhood of Belveder, you very well could have been face to face with these killers. A family member of one of them worked at the Western Sizzlin at that same intersection. Just down the hill, was the old Bi-lo’s with the cow on top, in a stirp mall. We have always thought, that it was these guys that had tried to snatch the skateboards out of our ditch. My brother and I had dropped our boards in our ditch, and run in the house to get something to drink. Coming out, we saw them and screamed for our father. My father confronted them, getting our boards back. They claimed that they thought the boards were being thrown away. My father, argued, that the ditch was deep enough, that they couldn’t see the boards from the street. Later inside, my father told both my brother and I to keep our eyes open, because the only way those guys knew our boards were in the ditch, was if they had seen us put them there. They were in a green or blue green old nova or old plymouth. A few weeks later, two of them turned the same car around in our drive way, and the brakes failed. They hit our house and a cedar tree on the corner of it. The driver left his name and number with our babysitter. He used the name, “Buttons” and my father, furious called him when he arrived home that night. I remember telling my father, that it was the same car, that the men that tried to snatch my skateboard was driving. Dad putting two and two together, figured they had come back to take either our boards, or our bikes. Dad put every thing under lock and key after that. But, it was my mother, after the arrests, asked the question:”If the brekes did fail on the car, then how did they drive it home?” My father later saw the vechicle that was ambushed on Two Notch Road, on the news. His jaw dropped. He said, “That’s the car that the guys that tried to take the skateboard.” Our sitter comfirmed it, was indeed, the same vehicle that hit our house. It was later that my parents put it all together. My father always suspected that they followed my brother and I from Two Notch the day they tried to take the boards, and later came back and hit the house intentionally to lure my sister and I outside. They were just surprised when our babysitter went out to see what was happening. Amazing how things happen in circles. I too, like you, believe to this day, had I not been taught to keep an eye out, my sister or I,may every well have ended up in the back of that car.

    • Ellen Marie Mitchell Says:

      Carlotta Hartness was a beautiful 14 year old. My aunt, Muffie, was her best friend. Muffie, only 14 at the time, and I, ONLY 7.. stlll are haunted by such a violent killing.

  5. I am doing a report on this trial and do not mean to offend anybody, but I was wondering if this was all that happened because this is the only sight i could find. just wondering.

  6. Kim Duval Says:

    I was a teenager when this terrible event took place off of I-20. The case itself is what made me major in Criminal Justice in college. My cousin was the actual RCSD that found Carlotta Hartness. He quit after this and went into private investigations. He would not speak of the crime scene for years and is still haunted by the condition of her body when it was found. I was actually outside CCI when the lights went dim on January 10 and 11th (one year apart). Justice was served.

    • Sandra Dale Welch Says:

      You were not alone those nights watching the lights dim. I watched from the other side of the river. I too went into law enforcement over this case. In fact, worked for Richland County for a time, until I moved here to Ohio. With my bacholer’s in science, I am attending CSU this fall. Had planned on Nursing, but having this in my child hood, I am more drawn into some branch of criminal science. When you are saying off I-20 are you meaning what is now Polo Road? Behind the trailer park where one of them lived.

  7. I was there Says:

    What do you mean that I don’t know what I am talking about, Kelli? Also, why does the truth of the matter offend you? No Way and Kim Duval sound as though they know what they are talking about, and know well!

    As disruptive as Terry’s last moments were with his family, because of two family members’ reactions to a TV show they were watching in his visitation cell in the moments prior to the end of the visit, his conduct at that time was relatively calm. At least he got to say good bye to his loved ones. Three of his victims did not have that luxury.

  8. Stephanie Says:

    It is a tragedy we were not able to save them all. But one life doesn’t give back others. THe fact of the matter is, Roach was a minor… who can say when one really becomes an adult? ME? Defintely not. There is no reason to argue. We all have our own beliefs. Those involved in the case (even the ones who escaped) have a biased view. Hate to say so, but it is true. Nobody addressed the question of where in the world were Roach’s parents? HOw come CPS wasn’t involved (were they even a government entitiy then?) Seriously, think of the environmental factors not to mention genetic disorders that were against Roach… it is as if he never had a chance. We need to be concerned with the future, there is nothing we can do about the past… all the person wanted was more UNBIASED information. Think of it… if we were to take and eye for an eye we’d all be blind. I am not playing down the tragic events that unfolded for anyone who came face to face with Roach… j

  9. Sandra Dale Welch Says:

    The third person in the cirlce of these three, was Ronald Mafaffey. ONe, I am not sure whom, resided in Belveder, a neighborhood, just at the city of Columbia line. I lived in the Bayview neighborhood, that like Belveder, opened onto US Number 1, at that point on the map, Two Notch Road. As our street, Bayview Drive was freshly repaved, it was my skateboarding mecca. Not like the jumps and such you see today, but the smoothest surface in the area, with a couple of hills, one on each end of the circle that ran from and looped around back to Two Notch, a nice slope at both ends. One afternoon, my brother and I, were skateboarding and turning around in the then, ‘Stereo Showcase’ building, when we noticed, there wasn’t any traffic, heading north on Two Notch. Coming out of the city. Suddenly one car comes careening down the hill from the Pinebelt intersection, with police cars behind it. Looking north on Two Notch, police cars popped out of side streets, we didn’t know that above Pinestraw Road, there was a road block. Trapped in this valley between Pinebelt and Pinestraw Roads, Roach and Shaw were captured by Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and SLED. My brother and I stood by and watched as the two men were taken into custody. Last sentence I remember was a deputy with his gun at Roach’s head shouting, “Don’t so much as breath!” This trio make our lives a nightmare until law enforcement caught them.

  10. bobby jones Says:

    I grew up in Seneca, SC with Terry as a neighbor. As a small kid he was a strange SOB. I’m not sure if you would call him retarded, but certainly screwed up.

    His brother was my age, Terry a few years older. I remember being afraid of him. A physically strong, mentally weak redneck that you never wanted to turn your back on.

    I saw him in Columbia while I toured CCI with a Political Science class from Clemson. He recognized me am screamed at me……….Hey man, you need to come up here with me and Jesus. Freaked me out. I told him you are about to meet Jesus … Hope it works out for ya!

  11. Patrick Nance Says:

    I played football with 17 year-old Tommy Taylor, and 14 year-old Carlotta Hartness was one of our cheerleaders. Joseph Carl Shaw, James Terry Roach and Ronald Eugen Mahaffey murdered my friends. Tommy and Carlotta never got to see their high school graduation, never got to experience college, marriage or start families of their own. I still remember them as the children they were before Shaw, Roach and Mahaffey took their precious lives so violently. After nearly 33 years, my heart still aches for the indescribable pain the Taylor and Hartness families endured at the hands of three disgusting criminals. As an attorney and as a wiser adult, I have come to oppose the death penalty. However, I am quite confident that our world is a better place without Shaw and Roach, and I have lost no sleep when pondering their execution or Mahaffey’s death in prison.

  12. Reginald Wolfe Says:

    Hey can anyone tell me why Ronald Eugen Mahaffey didn’t get life in prison or death. Also what race we’re these three men. Thanks!

  13. Reginald Wolfe Says:

    Oh P.S. how did Mahaffey die in prison? Did he get shanked?

    • Catherine hensley Says:

      Terry was a friend and I miss him. My prayers go out to all the family members.

  14. robert reeves Says:

    I knew tommy taylor and played football with his cousion at spring valley, its been 35 years since those brutal murders and to his day it still crosses my mind. i now live off polo rd and everytime i look at the ball field tommy comes into mind. we went to see him play football that friday night myself and some football players from spring valley and that saturday he was murdered. its just unreal to think what she went through in the hands of them sob”s i can honestly say i am still very mad at what happend and my only recourse is to know that them sob”s are burning in hell for what they did. revenge is mine say the lord i will repay thank god to this day they are still burning, they have no idea what they put them families through, i was there when they both were fried and i cheered like there was no tomorrow for finally justice was served!!!

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